MPs talk earthquake strengthening with locals
Stuart Smith (Opposition spokesman for Civil Defence, Earthquake Commission and Viticulture) and Alastair Scott paid a whirlwind visit to Dannevirke on Monday, October 15 meeting invited guests at the Business Hub 2.15pm.
This was a fact-finding and sharing event, the visitors wanting to hear from those present about local concerns related to earthquake strengthening requirements, earthquake readiness as well as matters related to Civil Defence.
Present were mayor Tracey Collis, CEO Blair King, resilience manager Paddy Driver and councillor Carol Isaacson from the Tararua District Council, Dannevirke Community Board chairman Ross McDonald and board member Terry Hynes, building owners Michael Schaare and Richard Veitch, real estate representatives Kerry Sutherland and Dave Frith and the press.
Alastair Scott was the first to admit that the new regulations which came into effect July 1, 2017 put a lot of pressure on small towns. Stuart Smith opened by expressing a strong wish to have rural towns flourish but over the next hour there were few ideas offered.
Mayor Tracey Collis asked if there could be tax deductibility for building owners if they brought their buildings up to standard. This met with observations from Stuart Smith about the complicated nature of assessing building strengthening actions.
Tararua District Council CEO Blair King hammered the point that the legislation, while it may be appropriate for large buildings with multiple tenants in the city, if applied to 1-2 storeyed buildings in rural towns each with 1-2 tenants create real problems. He said “Blue Chip tenants” like the banks were demanding high levels of compliance, putting huge pressure on rural landlords.
He also took issue with the wording of the new regulations which lumped safe buildings together with unsafe ones because of their materials.
Thirdly, he complained at the cost of getting an engineer to assess a building (often $30,000+) when there was no accepted design methodology to use.
Costs of compliance in other areas of council like water purity and waste disposal was also eating away at reserves of cash which could be used in the actual re-engineering of buildings.
Kerry Sutherland asked what was likely to happen to landlords who do nothing as he feared there could be quite a few.
In response, Stuart Smith said he was determined that key buildings like the Civil Defence bases and other government centres should be safe. He reminded those present districts would be on their own for up to a week in the event of a major earthquake and they needed to be prepared.
Mayor Tracey Collis said Tararua was ahead of the ball game with seven emergency plans set up but resilience manager Paddy Driver admitted most of the 18 CD centres in Tararua were not compliant.
Stuart said landlords who did nothing would probably have their buildings demolished by the Government who would send them a bill.
When asked why buildings were not compliant when they had withstood the Napier 1931, Dannevirke 1990 and Kaikoura earthquakes, he said if the Hikorangi Trench moved it would make Napier look “like a walk in the park”.
He defended the regulations requiring strengthening of brick buildings in particular, saying Christchurch’s experience emphasised their weakness.
One solution to help landlords, he said, could be to remodel their two-storeyed properties to accommodate rental flats on the second floor, helping repopulate the town centres. He said it had begun in Blenheim and Alastair Scott added there was an example in Masterton.
The meeting was a busy one and the two MPs were grateful for the issues raised some of which they had also heard at Waipukurau. They would take the issues back to Caucus.
Tararua District Council CEO Blair King tells Stuart Smith (Opposition spokesman for Civil Defence, Earthquake Commission and Viticulture) and local MP Alastair Scott regulations related to building strengthening do not suit rural towns.