The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is consulting on the regulations and a methodology that set the new approach for identifying and managing earthquake-prone buildings.

MBIE wants submissions by 15 December 2016.

The issue

An important part of the Government's response to the Canterbury earthquakes has been to make sure the performance of existing buildings is managed in a way that improves New Zealand's resilience to future seismic events. In light of the recent damage to the Wellington CBD, the importance of being well prepared cannot be understated.

New legislation, passed earlier this year, will require earthquake-prone buildings nationwide to be identified and remediated in a timely way. The Government is now in the process of consulting on the regulations and methodology that will set the approach councils take when dealing with buildings that are significantly below today's requirements for seismic performance. The commencement date for the legislation and regulations has yet to be announced, but the Government's goal is for the new regime to be in force by 1 July 2017.

The proposed solution

The Government is consulting on proposals for regulations, particularly looking at:

  • defining the meaning of “ultimate capacity" to clarify the level of seismic performance required to help councils determine whether a building is earthquake prone

  • the criteria for the level of other building work that will trigger the need for early seismic strengthening to be carried out

  • specifying the characteristics earthquake-prone buildings must have to be considered for an exemption from the requirement to undertake remedial work

  • establishing an earthquake rating system that provides a measure of a building's expected performance during an earthquake, and

  • the appearance of public notices describing an earthquake-prone building's level of seismic risk.

The Government is also consulting on the proposed methodology to set out how councils will identify earthquake-prone buildings. The methodology will also outline the criteria for acceptable engineering assessments, allowing councils to make informed decisions about whether buildings are earthquake prone.

Next steps

The consultation presents a good opportunity for building owners, property developers, tenants with significant commercial space, body corporate operators, as well as engineers and architects, to help shape the outcome of this process. The new legislation is likely to affect:

  • when a territorial authority may require a building to be inspected

  • how the buildings are to be assessed

  • the criteria that buildings will be assessed against

  • when building owners will be required to be strengthen or demolish an earthquake-prone building

  • timeframes for completing strengthening or demolition of earthquake-prone buildings

  • when earthquake-prone buildings may be exempt from the requirement to undertake remedial work, and

  • the costs which may be passed on to tenants of earthquake-prone buildings.