Abandoned towns reality of law change
Several provincial towns in the Manawatu¯ and Rangitı¯kei regions such as Feilding, Marton and Taihape have been identified as highrisk earthquake-prone zones.
A new concept, termed priority buildings, was introduced on July 1, 2017 to accelerate the time frames for buildings that are considered to pose a higher risk to life safety, or that are critical to recovery in an emergency.
Priority buildings are certain types of buildings in high and medium seismic risk zones that are considered to present a higher earthquake risk because of their construction, type, use or location.
This gives councils within the Manawatu¯ and Rangitı¯kei regions 2.5 years to identify priority buildings, and property owners 7.5 years to strengthen or demolish these vulnerable buildings.
For other building types, councils are expected to identify earthquake-prone buildings within five years, and owners must strengthen or demolish these properties within 15 years.
Several provincial towns in New Zealand such as Feilding, Marton and Taihape contain a disproportionate amount of the building stock that are earthquake-prone.
Many owners of earthquakeprone buildings are currently confronted with a key decision regarding whether to demolish or seismically retrofit and reuse their buildings with the opportunity to meet new market demands.
However, the change of use triggers compliance to new building standard, which make strengthening of these buildings uneconomical in regions where market forces are insufficient to drive the viability of strengthening in many suburban towns in New Zealand.
Some of these towns have reduced economic capacity to attract investments in property redevelopment that will lead to improved seismic strengthening of these buildings.
The implementation of the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) legislation in provincial towns could likely cause inflationary economic factors and town-centre decline, if not appropriately managed.
With the increasing awareness of risks posed by earthquakeprone buildings after the Canterbury and Kaikoura earthquakes, several provincial towns are likely to experience changes in the pattern of land occupation and land-use coupled with a gradual devaluation of real estate properties.
It is possible that these towns could likely experience an increased number of vacant and abandoned buildings in the CBD, loss of heritage buildings and a possible lack of market demand for older character buildings.
There is an urgent need to examine this impending problem in Manawatu¯ and Rangitı¯kei regions, and other suburban towns in New Zealand by examining alternative measures that could make retrofitting and reuse of heritage buildings commercially viable.
My research conducted under the Quakecore umbrella is currently investigating how different programmes, policy alternatives and incentives that could be combined and developed into a commercially viable and effective strategy to encourage building owners and developers to invest in seismic strengthening and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings, as well as meet the objectives/criteria of urban regeneration, historic preservation and affordable housing.
The resulting programme could then be used make a business case for public and private investments in earthquake resilience.
- Dr Temitope Egbelakin is a senior lecturer in building technology at the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology at Massey University.
Dr Temitope Egbelakin