Last month, Alura Ltd pleaded guilty in the Hutt Valley District Court to one charge under the Building Act 2004. The company was yesterday convicted by the Court, with the Judge reserving his decision on sentencing until August.
The charge relates to Alura Ltd failing to complete seismic work on the building at 307 Jackson Street, located within the Jackson Street Heritage Precinct. The charge carries a maximum fine of $200,000.
It is understood the case is the first of its kind in New Zealand, where a council has successfully prosecuted an individual or company for failure to comply with a notice to ensure a quake-prone building is safe for its occupants and the wider public.
To ensure the matter is resolved, Council will now issue a notice for occupants to vacate the building for it to be strengthened or demolished.
Council Divisional Manager Environmental Consents, Helen Oram, says the prosecution centres on an earthquake-prone building notice issued to the company in 2008, and follows several years of repeated attempts by Council to get Alura to strengthen the building to a safe standard.
These efforts included a signed formal agreement between Council and Alura that strengthening work would commence and the issuing of building consents. The consents lapsed without strengthening work getting underway.
Ms Oram says while Council has been more than patient with the company, the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, recent legislative changes and the growing body of science around earthquake-prone buildings made the need for enforcement more urgent.
“The bottom line is that people’s lives could be at stake. This case should be a strong signal that Council’s patience with the owners of earthquake-prone buildings who fail to make progress in strengthening their buildings is finite,” she says.
“We have always worked closely with building owners, we understand the pressures many are under and most have shown a willingness to get strengthening work done. But our experience with this case has shown us there’s a point where Council needs to act decisively to ensure public safety.”