Earthquake prone buildings – law change
In May 2016, Parliament passed the Buildings (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act. The amendment affects the section of the Act that governs earthquake-prone buildings. An earthquake-prone building is one that is less than one-third of the current structural standard.
The aim of this legislation is to introduce a nationally consistent approach to the assessment and management of earthquake-prone buildings, along with a standardised notice and national public register of earthquake-prone buildings. This new framework for addressing earthquake-prone buildings is the most comprehensive of any country in the world.
The new legislation overwrites the Council’s existing earthquake-prone buildings policy. The new legislation came into force on 1 July 2017.
- Territorial authorities (councils) are no longer required to have individual policies for earthquake-prone buildings
- There will be a centralised national register for all earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand. This means individual councils no longer need to have a register
- The country is divided into three seismic risk areas – high, medium and low. Lower Hutt is in the high seismic risk area
- A category of priority buildings is identified which require urgent strengthening. Examples of priority buildings include:
- Unreinforced masonry buildings (URM buildings)
- Hospitals and other buildings used by emergency services
- Buildings likely to be needed in an emergency as an emergency shelter/centre
- Education buildings occupied by at least 20 people (including early childhood centres, schools, private training and tertiary institutes)
The new legislation does not change the existing unreinforced masonry (URM) programme. The URM programme is running parallel to the changes to the earthquake-prone legislation.
What these rules mean for priority buildings in Lower Hutt
The new legislation requires all councils to consult the public on the identification of high-traffic/ high-pedestrian priority routes.
Then the buildings on these routes will be assessed to determine if they are priority buildings.
Councils will also need to decide if they consult on transport routes of strategic importance.
Because Lower Hutt is a high seismic risk area, owners must then assess priority buildings within two years and six months.
If the Council issues an earthquake-prone building notice, the owner has to complete remedial work within seven years and six months.
What these rules mean for other buildings in Lower Hutt
Building owners must do an assessment within five years of the rules coming into force. If the Council issues an earthquake-prone building notice, remedial work must be completed within 15 years.
The Council will issue a new notice for buildings that have been identified as being earthquake-prone and with an existing notice. The deadlines in the new Act will apply.
Owners of heritage buildings listed as a Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand heritage list, or included on the National Historic Landmarks, may apply in writing to their local Council for an extension of up to 10 years to complete seismic work. This would then be considered by Council taking into account the issues and risks with the building.
For more information visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website
After an earthquake
Find out what building owners need to do once an earthquake has occurred. You can also check out our FAQs.