The Government has introduced the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill into Parliament to revise the legal framework for managing earthquake prone buildings.

The objective of the Bill is to set a national guideline for all local councils in New Zealand in terms of how to balance between protecting people from harm in an earthquake and managing the cost of strengthening or removing earthquake-prone buildings. Currently, local councils can decide how passive or active it manages earthquake-prone buildings within its district.

Under the Bill, it will become a mandatory requirement for all local councils to undertake a seismic capacity assessment of all existing non-residential buildings and multi-storey and multi-unit residential buildings in their districts within five years from the commencement date the Bill comes into force.

Within the prescribed time period of five years of the local council assessing all earthquake-prone buildings within its district, the Council must give a building owner a written notice of the outcome of the assessment completed on the building ("the outcome notice"). The outcome notice must state whether the building is earthquake prone.

If the building is determined to be earthquake prone, then the building will require strengthening work or alternatively the owner of the building will need to demolish it. The deadline to complete the strengthening work or demolition of the building is 15 years from the date of the outcome notice. Owners of a heritage building may apply for an extension of time as well as a building owner may apply for an exemption under the Act for a building which imposes low risk of harm to the public.

Once an outcome notice has been issued by the local council, the council must within 20 working days after the date of the outcome notice do the following:

a. Issue a seismic work notice stating that the building is earthquake-prone and attach it to the building for public view; and

b. Record on the national seismic capacity register the outcome of the seismic capacity assessment.

The local council is further required to send a copy of the seismic work notice to the occupiers of the building and any person who has an interest in the land, such as a mortgagee. This notice cannot be removed from the building until the building is assessed as no longer being earthquake-prone by the council. It will be an offence up to $20,000.00 not to attach the notice to the building.

If a building owner is issued an outcome notice, the work required to strengthen the building may require alterations to be made to the building. Any alterations to the building will require a building consent and such works must comply with the current Building Code. In addition, should there be a change of the building use, a building consent will also be required.

The significance of this Bill is that it shall impact all commercial property owners including office, accommodation, retail, farm and industrial buildings, residential apartments and units that are two or more storeys high and contain three or more units, and structures such as bridges, statues and memorials.

Every owner who fails to complete their strengthening works or demolition of the building by the statutory deadline (being 15 years from the date of the outcome notice) commits an offence and will be potentially liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $200,000.00.

We recommend that all property owners should begin planning in terms of whether this Bill will affect you and how you plan to meet your statutory obligations when it comes into force.

For further information, please contact Alister Moran on (07) 928 2003.

Written by Alister Moran at 12:00




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