News | 25 February 2021
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Meet our Resilient Buildings Team

We’ve all heard the term ‘earthquake-prone buildings’, but what exactly does it mean? What are your responsibilities as a building owner? And how can Wellington City Council help?

To answer these questions and more, we sat down with Hayley Moselen, who manages the Resilient Buildings Team, responsible for the earthquake-prone building programme for Wellington city.

In the first of three articles, she talks about why her team was formed, and what they do.

An aerial shot of Mt Victoria and the old museum, which is now Massey University, and the War Memorial and Carillon.

Tell us a bit about your team

Hayley: The Christchurch earthquake of 22 February 2011, where 185 people tragically lost their lives, was a stark reminder to Wellingtonians of the power of mother nature and brought into question the resilience of Wellington’s buildings. Earthquakes themselves don’t cause tragedy; it’s falling buildings and pieces of buildings that cause harm.

Here in Wellington, we know for sure that we are going to have a big earthquake – we just don’t know when.

Wellington City Council had an active Earthquake-prone Building Policy in place from 2006, however in response to the Christchurch Earthquake a new, small but dedicated Resilient Buildings Team was created to ramp up our efforts in assessing the city’s buildings. Our team has grown to now include myself and five Technical Advisors.

For an earthquake centred on Wellington, scientists tell us to expect hundreds of people to be killed or injured by falling buildings. Most people realise this and reluctantly or subconsciously accept this as a risk of living in Wellington. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Government has given us some regulatory tools and my team is responsible for implementing the earthquake-prone building legislation and doing everything we can to minimise the tragic consequences of an earthquake. We work with building owners and their structural engineers to determine a building’s earthquake-prone status ultimately working towards a safer and more resilient city.

A headshot of Hayley Moselen, who manages the Resilient Buildings Team, responsible for the Earthquake-prone Building Programme for Wellington City.

Is this all new to us?

Hayley: Wellingtonians have known for a long time that their region is highly seismically active. It’s recorded by the first European settlement in Petone in 1840 that they suffered a fire, followed by an earthquake and then major flooding all within a couple of days of each other. Then in 1848 the settlement in Wellington suffered its first major earthquake which measured magnitude 7.8. Half of the houses were shaken down and rebuilt in timber. Seven years later the largest ever earthquake happened in the city, measuring magnitude 8.2.

And our seismic knowledge and design expertise has increased dramatically from the mid to late 1950s. Wellington’s history of development, coupled with its seismic exposure, its different soil types and new understanding of how buildings perform in earthquakes has left a significant legacy of vulnerable buildings that need to be addressed.

The Kaikoura Earthquake of 2016 resulted in a better understanding of the seismic profile of our city, and this is now informing how we plan the city for the future, and how we might mitigate risk as we grow.

Do you need advice or support?

Whatever your earthquake-prone building issue, we are here to support you and help you to understand the steps you need to take to improve the earthquake safety of your building. Please get in touch. Email or call 04 499 4444 and ask to speak to one of the Resilient Buildings team members.

If you own a residential earthquake-prone building and find yourself in hardship over earthquake strengthening, then Kāinga Ora is offering a loan scheme. You can find out more and apply on Kainga Ora website.