Strengthening unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings

Strengthening unreinforced masonry is a priority over the next year as we continue to support Wellington becoming a resilient city.


Due to the increased risk of earthquakes following the Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquake on November 2016 the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment (MBIE) has set up an initiative to improve the seismic performance of unreinforced masonry buildings (URM) in high-risk areas, including Wellington. The initiative requires building owners of certain buildings to take action to secure unreinforced masonry parapets and facades by March 2018.

The buildings in question meet the following criteria: buildings with street facing parapets and facades on busy, high-traffic areas (pedestrian or vehicles) that are already known to be vulnerable in the event of an earthquake.

To assist with the urgency of this work, Wellington City Council will contribute $1 million and the Government $2 million. This $3 million fund will contribute up to $15,000 for a URM facade, and $10,000 for a URM parapet. The remaining costs are to be funded by the building owner. 

This amendment to the building act was passed Tuesday 28 February 2017 under an Order in Council (OIC).

For building owners

In March 2017 building owners with a property that meets the URM criteria will receive official notification from Council and a support pack on how to go about this work.  Owners have one year (till March 2018) to get their URM parapets and/or URM facades secured or strengthened. Please see the toolkit below for how to go about this.

If you think you should have received a letter from Council and haven’t, email

Building owner forums

Wellington City Council will hold two forums to give owners an overview of the URM programme, introduce the process and answer specific questions. This will also be a chance for owners to meet each other and look for opportunities to work together.

  • Monday 3 April, 5.30pm, Earthquake Recovery Information Centre (ERIC), Public Trust Building, 131–135 Lambton Quay, Wellington
  • Wednesday 5 April, 11am, Newtown Park Function Room, located off Roy Street in Newtown Park

To register for one of these forums email

In the following few weeks the Council will set up a ‘URM hub’ to bring together officers from across Building Consents and Compliance, Heritage, Transport and Traffic Management to help building owners through the URM process. These will be held at both Newtown and CBD sites. More details to come soon.

Frequently asked questions

What is an unreinforced masonry building?

What is a parapet?

Why is this happening?

Why is this being done under urgency?

How will the buildings be identified and owners contacted?

What is the criteria for identifying these buildings?

When will building owners be contacted / How can I find out if my building is affected?

What Wellington streets have been identified as in scope?

When does the reinforcement work have to be completed?

How much money is the Government and Wellington City Council putting in?

Why is it being subsidised?

How much financial support will I get and how do I access this fund?

I think I lease an unreinforced masonry building, who should I contact?