News | 15 December 2021

High Court win on EQP buildings

The High Court has upheld Wellington City Council’s appeals regarding two heritage buildings with expired earthquake-prone buildings notices at 43 Ghuznee St (Toomath’s Building) and 114 Adelaide Rd (former Tramway Hotel).

The former Adelaide (Tramway) Hotel

The buildings have both been subject to earthquake-prone building (EQP) notices for around 20 years.  The Building Act requires owners of earthquake-prone buildings to undertake seismic work to strengthen them up to at least 34% New Building Standard (NBS) or demolish them.

 

In late 2019 the Council applied under section 133AS of the Building Act for an order authorising the Council to undertake seismic work and recover the costs from the owners (by placing a charge on the land).  The applications were opposed by the building owners. The District Court refused to grant the orders but invited the Council to amend its application to be more limited.

 

The Council appealed the District Court’s decision. The High Court agreed with the Council on all four of its grounds of appeal, allowed its appeal with costs and granted the order sought.

 

The Council’s Chief Infrastructure Officer, Siobhan Procter, says the court ruling gives the Council authority to commence the work required to investigate, design and carry out the seismic work to make the two buildings safe.

 

Officers will continue engaging with the owners regarding the next steps, including whether a resource consent is needed given the heritage status of both buildings.

 

The Council’s applications for orders to undertake seismic work were the first made in NZ under the Building (Earthquake Prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2017. Ms Procter says this decision is positive for local authorities seeking to use those powers and sets the precedent for future applications.