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Published: 2014-04-23 00:00:00

Issued on behalf of Waikato Mayoral Forum
The Waikato Mayoral Forum is warning local Waikato communities could individually face multi-million dollar expenditure to comply with “excessive” new earthquake legislation being promoted by the Government.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill suggests a significant toughening of building earthquake-risk rules in an effort to boost community safety.

“The forum accepts the need for legislative change but believes the current proposals are excessive and don’t include an appropriate risk assessment process,” said chairman Allan Sanson.

This is especially the case in Waikato which is generally an area of very low seismic risk, apart from Taupo and the Hauraki Plains, said Mr Sanson.

“In line with Local Government New Zealand, we strongly urge the Government to think again before imposing the threat of major, unnecessary burdens on Waikato communities. Any new rules need to better reflect the actual risks faced in particular locations around New Zealand rather than take such a broad, one size fits all approach.”

In a formal submission on the bill, the forum said a typical rural district faced initial estimated extra building assessment costs of $3-$4 million, with additional related annual administrative costs of $1.2-$1.5 million.

“It is estimated that of those buildings assessed about 20 per cent are potentially earthquake prone. Affected building owners in such a typical rural district face potential upgrade costs estimated to be more than $100 million.”

The submission noted assessments of buildings to be carried out by councils would be a cost on ratepayers, who would also have to bear the cost of any upgrades to council-owned buildings.

The forum warned high costs of upgrades could lead to widespread demolition of buildings in town centres across the Waikato “with little left standing”.

“Apart from their personal loss of equity, the cost to communities will be in the availability of commercial buildings and therefore places of employment. It will also significantly impact on ease of doing business for the rural communities who are serviced by these towns.”

Demolitions would “potentially risk the future of communities and impose significant economic hardship for our people” and have “long-term social and economic impacts”.

The submission said the bill’s “broad blanket” approach could not be justified to Waikato rural communities on cost-benefit grounds. “These are communities where typically the risk of an earthquake is considered to be low and the potential benefits that will be achieved will be significantly less than expected additional costs that are to be imposed.”

The forum recommended the local government and environment select committee ask for further investigation into earthquake probabilities and risks.