Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Strengthening Programme

Due to the increased risk of earthquakes following the Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquake the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment set up an initiative to improve the seismic performance of unreinforced masonry buildings in high-risk areas.

What was the Unreinforced Masonry Strengthening Programme?

The Unreinforced Masonry (URM) strengthening programme required building owners of certain buildings to take action to secure unreinforced masonry parapets and facades by the end of September 2018.

As a high risk area, Wellington City Council was required to ensure that work was carried out on 113 buildings.

The intention behind the initiative was to take a proactive approach to strengthening Wellington’s buildings so that the city would be better prepared for the possibility of further earthquakes or aftershocks following the November 2016 earthquake. Of particular concern were unreinforced-masonry buildings. These buildings are constructed using, or contain significant elements 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. These buildings are particularly vulnerable to falling in an earthquake, so targeted strengthening was a priority.

Because there was a tight deadline of 18 months to complete this work, the Government and Council contributed a total of $3 million to help Wellington building owners achieve this timeframe. The fund contributed 50% of costs up to $25,000 for buildings 1-2 storeys, and 50% of costs up to $65,000 for 3 or more storeys. 

The buildings targeted were those with street facing parapets and facades on busy, high-traffic streets. Only buildings that were identified in this programme and required to undertake work during this timeframe were eligible for funding. The programme ended in September 2018.

Wellington streets identified as being high traffic for this programme were:

  • Adelaide Road, Berhampore/Mt Cook/Newtown, Wellington
  • Bond Street, Wellington Central, Wellington
  • Courtenay Place, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Coutts Street, Kilbirnie, Wellington
  • Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Dundas Street, Seatoun, Wellington
  • Egmont Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Eva Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington
  • Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Hobart Street, Miramar, Wellington
  • Holland Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Hutt Road, Pipitea, Wellington
  • Kilbirnie Crescent, Kilbirnie, Wellington
  • Lambton Quay, Wellington Central, Wellington
  • Manners Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Miramar Avenue, Miramar, Wellington
  • Riddiford Street, Newtown, Wellington
  • Rintoul Street, Newtown, Wellington
  • Taranaki Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • The Parade, Island Bay, Wellington
  • Tinakori Road, Thorndon, Wellington
  • Tory Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Victoria Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Vivian Street, Te Aro, Wellington
  • Wakefield Street, Wellington Central, Wellington
  • Willis Street, Wellington Central, Wellington
  • Woodward Street, Wellington Central, Wellington

All 113 buildings had their unreinforced masonry secured, reducing the risk of death or injury caused by this type of building element.

Once the programme was completed the Council had an independent review carried out to identify what successes could be applied to the wider earthquake-prone building programme, and what we could learn for future strengthening programmes.

Unreinforced-masonry programme independent review (486KB PDF)

Need help?

Email: buildingresilience@wcc.govt.nz 
Phone: 04 499 4444