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 received 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 URM@wcc.govt.nz
Building owner forums
Wellington City Council held two forums giving owners an overview of the URM programme, introducing the process and answering specific questions. This was also a chance for owners to meet each other and look for opportunities to work together.
URM hubs will be run to allow building owners to meet with a technical officer and a case manager to discuss any queries as well as the next steps to be taken within the programme.
These hubs will be held on:
- Wednesday 3 and 10 May, from 9.30am-12.30pm, at Earthquake Recovery Information Centre
- Thursday 4 and 11 May, from 9.30am-12.30pm, at Kia Ora Newtown
Register for URM hubs
What is an unreinforced masonry building?
Unreinforced masonry is a construction of clay brick, concrete block or natural stone units bound together using lime or cement mortar, without any reinforcing elements such as steel reinforcing bars.
What is a parapet?
A parapet is a low protective wall at the edge of a balcony or roof.
Why is this happening?
Strengthening unreinforced masonry is one of the Council's priorities as it’s prone to failure in earthquakes. This will help improve the city’s resilience.
Why is this being done under urgency?
The New Zealand Government and Wellington City Council are taking a proactive approach to strengthening Wellington’s buildings so that the city is as prepared as it can be for significant earthquakes. It’s known that URM buildings are particularly vulnerable to falling in earthquakes so strengthening unreinforced masonry is one of the Council's priorities over the next year as we continue to support Wellington becoming a resilient city.
How will the buildings be identified and owners contacted?
MBIE has a set of criteria to help identify buildings. Now that we have received these guidelines and an Order in Council (OIC) has been passed in parliament, we will be in contact with the building owners directly.
What is the criteria for identifying these buildings?
MBIE has provided the following criteria:
Buildings with street facing parapets and facades on busy, high traffic areas (pedestrian or vehicles) which are already known to be vulnerable in the event of an earthquake.
When will building owners be contacted / How can I find out if my building is affected?
Now that the Government has approved the list of streets in scope for this fund, the relevant councils need to identify the individual buildings that meet the criteria. Council is working through this now and will be in touch with building owners in early to mid-March. If the building you own meets the criteria, you’ll receive a letter from the Council (along with the technical guidelines and support for how to go about this strengthening work and access the fund).
When does the reinforcement work have to be completed?
Reinforcement work needs to be completed within 12 months from when the building owners receive notice from the Council.
How much money is the Government and Wellington City Council putting in?
The Government has set aside $2 million for Wellington. The Mayor of Wellington has agreed to a further $1 million contribution, subject to full Council approval.
Why is it being subsidised?
Because there is a deadline of 12 months to complete this work, the Government and Council have contributed $3 million to help building owners achieve this deadline.
How much financial support will I get and how do I access this fund?
The owners of buildings who meet the criteria for this project will be reimbursed half the amount of the cost of securing work up to $15,000 for a URM facade and/or $10,000 for a URM parapet. The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will administer the fund.
I think I lease an unreinforced masonry building, who should I contact?
Tenants should contact their building owner. Council will be in touch with building owners in early to mid-March.