No reprieve, no respite
The Government will not ease timelines on building owners to strengthen or demolish earthquake prone structures, nor is it planning to revisit legislation.
The Building Amendment Act came into force on July 1 and calls for every building in the country to be more than 34 per cent of the building code. If under, owners have 15 years to strengthen or demolish their building or seven and a half years if they’re in high seismic areas, such as Manawatu¯ , Rangitı¯kei and Wellington.
But the level of investment will cripple rural towns and end with streets of red-stickered sections and demolition sites, owners say.
They’re unlikely to get the reprieve they want, with the Government not backing down over legislation sparked by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa said.
The Act seeks to balance safety of life, cost and impacts on heritage, Salesa said.
‘‘We do not create legislation such as this lightly, nor are we unaware of the burden it places on building owners. However, our priority is [the] safety of building occupants and citizens in the streets. And we do believe building owners have a duty of care.’’
Only heritage buildings were allowed limited time extensions if they were taking steps to manage risks, Salesa said.
She said the Government was holding itself to account by upgrading all state-owned hospitals, and emergency and education buildings.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would continue to work with councils around the country to identify earthquake-prone buildings by January 31, 2019, for high seismic areas.
Ministry spokeswoman Katherine Allen said officials could help building owners with information on heritage funds and possible extensions, but their first port of call should be to councils.
Owners would make their own decisions on whether to strengthen or demolish based on the building’s economic viability.
Several business and building owners were nearing the age of retirement and, instead of the sleepless nights and financial stress of repairing buildings, they would likely just walk away, Gracies Clothing owner Kerry Gracie said.
Feilding’s Rosebowl Cafe owner Robert McNabb said the minister’s stance left Fergusson St in somewhat of a pickle as the reality of gaps in the townscape appeared inevitable.
The Government has anticipated this, giving itself the power to demolish any building left unstrengthened and recover the costs from the owner.
Kerry Gracie, owner of Gracies clothing store and advocate for the business owners’ Earthquake Prone Buildings Focus Group.