Quake strength­en­ing a big is­sue


Cen­tral Hawke’s Bay mayor Alex Walker says she sup­ports moves to have new leg­is­la­tion govern­ing earth­quake­prone build­ings changed, to make the costs of meet­ing the re­quire­ments “more fea­si­ble” for dis­tricts like CHB.

Ms Walker said new time­frames to fix earth­quake-prone build­ings un­der the Build­ing (Earth­quake­prone) Build­ings Amend­ment Act 2016, had the po­ten­tial to be a “big is­sue” for ru­ral towns like Waipuku­rau and Waipawa, which both con­tain ma­sonry build­ings lo­cated along the their main re­tail strips.

“Yes earth­quake strength­en­ing is some­thing caus­ing is­sues for small com­mu­ni­ties all around New Zealand, par­tic­u­larly ru­ral ones.

“My per­spec­tive is that it is my job and my coun­cil’s job to rep­re­sent the best in­ter­ests of this com­mu­nity in how we en­act this leg­is­la­tion.

“We’ve al­ready been in­volved, for in­stance, in a re­mit that has come through Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment New Zealand, seek­ing some mi­nor changes that will make meet­ing that leg­is­la­tion more fea­si­ble for our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

Un­der the new leg­is­la­tion, which came into ef­fect last July, build­ings will con­tinue to be deemed as earth­quake prone if they meet less than 34 per cent of the New Build­ing Stan­dard (NBS).

Be­cause CHB is a high risk seis­mic area, as is the rest of Hawke’s Bay, the dis­trict coun­cil has un­til July 2022 to iden­tify all po­ten­tially earth­quake prone build­ings in the dis­trict un­der the leg­is­la­tion.

Own­ers will be re­quired to pro­vide an engi­neer­ing assess­ment within 12 months of their build­ing be­ing iden­ti­fied by coun­cil as po­ten­tially earth­quake­prone, though coun­cil will have lim­ited dis­cre­tion to ex­tend the time­frame for up to a fur­ther 12 months.

Own­ers in high risk ar­eas have 15 years to strengthen their build­ings, un­less they are own­ers of re­in­forced ma­sonry build­ings lo­cated on “pri­or­ity routes”, who will have a shorter seven-anda-half year time­frame to make their build­ings safe.

As de­fined by the MBIE, pri­or­ity routes are busy roads or foot­paths where fall­ing ma­sonry from build­ings da­m­aged in an earth­quake would pose a high risk to life and safety.

LGNZ re­mit

Also in­cluded in the leg­is­la­tion is a “trig­ger” clause that says when an owner car­ries out sub­stan­tial al­ter­ations worth at least 25 per cent of a build­ing’s cap­i­tal value, they must also carry out seis­mic strength­en­ing works at the same time if it is earth­quake prone.

The re­mit from LGNZ has re­quested the clause to be changed to say “25 per cent of the cap­i­tal value or $200,000 which­ever is the greater” to make for a “more eq­ui­table pro­vi­sion” for re­gional cen­tres.

The re­mit was passed “over­whelm­ingly” at LGNZ’s an­nual con­fer­ence this month, with 95 per cent of ter­ri­to­rial au­thor­i­ties sup­port­ing it.

Mayor Walker said for a build­ing with a small cap­i­tal value in a ru­ral town, the leg­is­la­tion would trig­ger the earth­quake strength­en­ing re­quire­ments “very quickly”.

She said the is­sue of earth­quake prone build­ings was a ma­jor rea­son why her dis­trict coun­cil had set aside funds to de­velop Town Cen­tre Plans in its long term plan, which will de­velop “a longer term sus­tain­able ap­proach for the fu­ture” of CHB’s main cen­tres.

Costly ex­pe­ri­ence

One per­son with re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence of suc­cess­fully bring­ing an earth­quake prone build­ing up to the min­i­mum 34 per cent rating of the NBS is Alan Suther­land.

Closed since Easter of 2014 af­ter it was rated at just 13 per cent of the NBS, St Mary’s Angli­can Church in Waipuku­rau is due to re­open on St Mary’s Day on Au­gust 15 af­ter lo­cal parish­ioners suc­cess­fully raised more than $200,000.

Suther­land, the spokesman for the lo­cal sub­com­mit­tee tasked with strength­en­ing St Mary’s, de­scribed his ex­pe­ri­ence of the seis­mic strength­en­ing process as “costly, time con­sum­ing and — at times — frus­trat­ing”.

Suther­land said the process started with $10,000 for an ini­tial seis­mic assess­ment of the 1929-built church, which with­stood the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earth­quake.

“What we got back was a re­port which ba­si­cally said the church was made of red brick and it was a risk in an earth­quake. We didn’t get much value from it,” he said.

A de­tailed seis­mic assess­ment (DSA) was then car­ried out at a cost $25,000, with plans for the strength­en­ing work, based on the find­ings of the DSA, cost­ing a fur­ther $25,000.

“Along with con­sent costs and en­gi­neers’ fees, I es­ti­mate we spent around $75,000 be­fore even get­ting a worker on site,” he said.

Other build­ings

While St Mary’s has only been strength­ened to the min­i­mum 34 per cent rating, Hast­ings reg­is­tered val­uer Paul Har­vey said most com­mer­cial build­ing own­ers would have to strengthen their build­ings up to at least 67 per cent of the NBS if they wanted to at­tract or keep ten­ants.

“It is at this point or higher that we do not see any re­sis­tance from ten­ants to oc­cupy, pur­chasers to buy and banks to lend. Any­thing less than this and this may well im­pact on de­ci­sions by any or all of these stake­hold­ers.”

Un­strength­ened build­ings would be po­ten­tially “un­saleable” un­less they were of­fered at sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced prices to al­low a new owner to strengthen it, he said, while fi­nanciers might not be in­ter­ested in any new lend­ing on such a prop­erty. In smaller pro­vin­cial towns where a num­ber of the main street com­mer­cial premises are owner oc­cu­pied, Har­vey said some own­ers had been able to make the de­ci­sion to ac­cept the seis­mic risk and stay in oc­cu­pa­tion. “How­ever di­rec­tor’s obli­ga­tion un­der the new health and safety leg­is­la­tion cre­ates an in­ter­est­ing sce­nario, and li­a­bil­ity to staff, should there be an event in the fu­ture and some­one is in­jured in a build­ing that was known to be earth­quake prone.”

Mayor Alex Walker says new time­frames to fix earth­quake-prone build­ings have the po­ten­tial to be a “big is­sue” for ru­ral towns like Waipuku­rau and Waipawa.

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