Review of Earthquake-prone Buildings

1 March 2011

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the review of Wellington City Council's earthquake policies will be informed by the experience of Christchurch.

A briefing on the City Council's earthquake policies and implementation, and the parameters of the review, is scheduled to be considered by Councillors later this month (March).

Wellington City Council decided to review its quake policies after last September's Canterbury quake.

"The Christchurch disaster has changed the game in terms of the impact of earthquakes both in New Zealand and globally - and I want full data to inform further decisions about Wellington's quake risk, injury prevention and recovery."

"It is also wise to coordinate our approach to any review with the inquiry into the Christchurch quake - announced yesterday by the Prime Minister."

Mayor Wade-Brown, who holds the City Council's Emergency Management Portfolio, says the Council is "well down the track" in terms of its review of potentially earthquake-risk buildings required under the Building Act 2004. More than 2,600 'initial evaluation process' exercises have been completed from an inventory of some 3,800 potentially earthquake-risk buildings around the city.

Of these, 1,472 buildings have been found not to be quake-prone, 1,006 have been declared potentially quake-prone, and 161 confirmed as quake-prone and thus requiring strengthening work.

Mayor Wade-Brown says it is well known that hundreds of buildings around the city have been strengthened over the past two decades - including major public buildings like Parliament, the Embassy, the City Gallery and the Town Hall.

"We're strengthening the Council's rental housing stock, the City to Sea Bridge and also undertaking seismic assessments of the Council's own Municipal Office Building in Civic Square and the Town Hall - which may have to be strengthened again to meet the requirements of the Building Act 2004.

"In terms of our scheduled review, I want officers to step back and gather the best-possible information about what's happened in Christchurch.

Cr Iona Pannett, the Council's Built Environment Portfolio Leader, says she will press for the review to consider "the big issues of heritage protection and retaining Wellington's sense of place - along with the obvious need to enhance the resilience of the city's business community and its residents."

Mayor Wade-Brown says that, in conjunction with the Government and a number of national agencies (including engineering, heritage and architecture interests), there is a need for a national approach to development in a seismically-active environment.

"We have to assemble data and information about issues as varied as liquefaction, heritage - and the huge issue that relates to the affordability and cost allocation of strengthening private and public buildings and infrastructure."