Quake strengthening changes welcomed

11:00 AM Sunday May 17, 2015 Rotorua Daily Post

Changes to regulations dealing with the earthquake risk of older New Zealand buildings will provide more certainty for building owners and developers in Rotorua, says Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick.

Announced by Building and Housing minister Nick Smith during the weekend, the changes will see New Zealand categorised into zones according to seismic risk with Rotorua categorised as medium.

Timeframes for work needed on quake-prone buildings have been adjusted according to seismic risk level.

Mrs Chadwick said it was a sensible move away from the previous one-size-fits-all approach.

"This is heartening and should provide more certainty by allowing a longer timeframe. This is especially relevant for us in terms of upgrading buildings in the inner city where developers have perhaps been tentative about doing upgrades."

"The financial impact of the previous regime was a real challenge for building owners, including councils, and a key impact of these changes is expected to be major cost savings due to the change in timeframes," Mrs Chadwick said.

About 1400 Rotorua buildings have to-date been identified as potentially earthquake-prone.

"It makes absolute sense to take into account the different seismic risk levels around New Zealand

"We're still awaiting the detail but it's very pleasing the Government has taken on board feedback from Local Government New Zealand and elsewhere and has come up with something that balances public safety with costs, practicalities and the likelihood of an earthquake happening.

"Changes to the compliance periods will also make a big difference for building owners as timeframes can have a major impact on costs."

Council staff would be working through the changes with building owners in Rotorua, she said.

The policy changes will be followed through into amendments to the Building Act and to regulations which will be consulted on later this year.

Key changes:

· New Zealand categorised into three seismic zones of risk - high, medium and low
· Targeted timeframes - buildings in high risk areas will need to be assessed within 5 years and strengthened within 15; medium areas to be assessed within 10 years and strengthened within 25; low risk areas to be assessed within 15 years and strengthened within 35 years.
· Education and emergency buildings such as hospitals in high and medium seismic risk areas to be identified and strengthened in half the standard time.
· Reducing the scope of the buildings requiring assessment to those that pose the greatest risk (new policy will exclude farm buildings, retaining walls, fences, monuments, wharves, bridges, tunnels and storage tanks).