Council Reviewing Earthquake Prone Building Policy

The Hurunui District Council is considering a more ‘hands-on’ approach to ensure the integrity of commercial and public buildings in its district, in the wake of the two big Canterbury shakes.

Until now the council has only required owners of commercial and non-residential properties to strengthen their buildings as part of its consideration of building consent applications for remedial or upgrading work.

As it is coming up five years since the policy was adopted, it is now required to be reviewed and, given recent events, Mayor Winton Dalley says the Council is looking to take a more pro-active approach to identifying potentially earthquake prone buildings in the district.

“The events of February 2011, in particular, have brought home to all of us how vulnerable we are to a natural disaster.

“It was an all too graphic demonstration of what can go wrong if we do not have appropriate standards around the integrity of our commercial and public buildings.”

Under its Earthquake-prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy review the Council is now proposing to identify potential problem buildings, and then require owners to do any necessary strengthening work over a given time frame.

In adopting this approach Mayor Dalley says the Council is conscious of balancing the costs of upgrades that may be imposed on property owners with the risks presented to the public using the buildings in the event of an earthquake.

“This is not a knee jerk reaction. It is a considered and timely response to a tragic event which has claimed property and lives.

“We want to be sure, should an earthquake strike our district in the future, that we have been responsible in doing what we can to minimise any risk to human life and property.”

The Council is also proposing to increase the level of strengthening required, where practicable, from the legislative minimum of 33% of the current building code to 67% as recommended by the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering.

Environmental Services Manager, Judith Batchelor, says it is the way many authorities in Canterbury are now going.

“There are concerns the current requirement is simply not sufficient to prevent buildings from failing in an earthquake of the magnitude that can reasonably be expected in the region.

“If we are to provide the best possible protection for our residents and visitors then it makes sense we take the advice of the experts who are strongly recommending every effort be made to achieve a higher standard.”

Because increasing the standard would likely impose greater costs on building owners and on ratepayers where community owned halls and buildings need upgrading the Council is also suggesting owners be given up to 30 years to complete the work depending on the building’s use.

There are an estimated 200 buildings in the district that are potentially earthquake prone, of which 68 are Council owned.

The proposed new policy is open for submissions until MONDAY 9TH MAY, 2011.

For further information contact:

Judith Batchelor

Environmental Services Manager

Hurunui District Council

P: 03 314 0024