Council welcomes new quake legislation

3 July 2017

Wellington City Council has welcomed new earthquake-prone building legislation that came into force on 1 July and which will in time mean that Wellington becomes more secure in the event of a significant earthquake.

Cuba Street's design could be different in the future

“This new national legislation will mean some changes for some building owners,” says Acting Mayor Paul Eagle. 

“The good news is that the vast majority of the earthquake-prone building notices have already been issued for our city so owners know how long they have to strengthen their buildings. The Council has been leading in this area for over 30 years.” 

Some 720 buildings in Wellington are deemed earthquake-prone by the City Council. Cr Iona Pannett, the Council’s Portfolio Leader for Infrastructure and Sustainability, says good progress is being made by owners to get the buildings strengthened - in particular a number of owners of heritage buildings are getting on with the work.  

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 avoids a “one-size-fits-all” approach, prioritising geographic areas and buildings that pose the greatest risk to life safety. New Zealand is categorised into areas of high, medium and low seismic risk (with timeframes for identifying potentially earthquake-prone buildings of five, 10 and 15 years, and timeframes for strengthening earthquake-prone buildings of 15, 25 and 35 years, dependent on the seismic risk of the area). 

“Naturally Wellington is in the high-risk category, it’s why we’ve been so active and are now ahead in this space. This national policy reinforces the direction the City Council has taken and the diligence that Wellington building owners have shown in getting their buildings strengthened,” says Cr Pannett. 

“The Council does however understand that major costs are involved in strengthening buildings so we’ve made some rates relief available to owners as well as grants for owners of heritage buildings,” says Cr Pannett.  

“The Council also believes there is a need for some government intervention in this area to lessen the financial strain on the owners of buildings that do have to be strengthened. There is no surprise that the costs for strengthening are high.” 

Details regarding the new legislation: 

Wellington building owners will receive a letter from Council within the next few weeks explaining the new policy and what it means in more detail. For the majority it will mean no change aside from a new notice. 

The existing yellow and red notices will be replaced with a standardised national sign. 

The methodology will be available on MBIE’s website along with the Engineering Assessment Guidelines (an update to the Engineering Redbook). Regulations available at www.legislation.govt.nz