Earthquake strengthening

Find out about your obligations for earthquake strengthening your building and changes to the law.

About earthquake strengthening

Earthquake strengthening is any work done to a building to improve its ability to withstand the effects of earthquakes, and to keep people in and around the building safe.

Earthquake-prone buildings

An earthquake-prone building is one that is less than one-third of the current structural standard.

In May 2016, Parliament passed the Buildings (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act. The new legislation came into force on 1 July 2017.

The aim of this legislation is to introduce:

  • a country-wide approach to the assessment and management of earthquake-prone buildings
  • a standardised notice system; and
  • a national public register of earthquake-prone buildings.

What has changed

  • 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) in high vehicle and pedestrian areas.
    • Buildings that have the potential to impede strategic routes in an emergency.
    • 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)
      • Profile categories to identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings. These categories include:
      • Unreinforced masonry buildings.
      • Pre-1976 buildings that are three or more storeys, or 12 or more metres high.
      • Pre-1935 buildings that are one or two storeys.

Priority buildings

The new legislation requires all councils to consult the public on the identification of high-traffic/high-pedestrian priority routes.

The buildings on these routes will be assessed to determine if they are priority buildings.

As a result of the public consultation process, Council has identified 7 streets and thoroughfares in Lower Hutt that have sufficient vehicle and pedestrian traffic to warrant prioritisation. The streets are:

  • Jackson Street, Petone (That part of Jackson Street between Cuba Street and Petone Avenue)
  • Cuba Street, Lower Hutt (That part of Cuba Street between Emmersons Street and Montague Street)
  • High Street, Lower Hutt (That part of High Street between Daly Street and Melling Road)
  • Bunny Street, Lower Hutt
  • Everest Avenue, Naenae
  • Hillary Court, Naenae
  • Rimu Street, Eastbourne

Because Hutt City is a high seismic risk area, owners must assess priority buildings within 2 years and 6 months.

If Council issues an earthquake-prone building notice, the owner has to complete remedial work within 7 years and 6 months.

Other Hutt City buildings

If a building is identified by Council as being potentially earthquake-prone, the owners then have 12 months to provide an engineer's assessment that satisfies the governments Earthquake-prone Building methodology document.

Council may then issue an earthquake-prone building notice, requiring the owner to strengthen the building within 15 years.

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. We'll consider these applications in the order we receive them.

Structural review of building consent applications

The structural design aspects of some building consent applications will be peer reviewed by a structural Engineer on behalf of Council.

The cost of this review will be passed on to the building consent applicant.

Building consent applications that will be subject to a structural review include:

  • applications for strengthening buildings that are less than 34% NBS (New Building Standard)
  • applications that include a change of use as defined by the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005
  • other projects may qualify for review on a case by case basis.

For more information