Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) (EPB) Amendment Bill – HPA Submission To The Select Committee

NZ Parliament Picture1The Historic Places Aotearoa submission to the Local Government & Environment Committee on the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill  is as follows:


Patron: Dame Anne Salmond, DBR, FRSNZ, FBA
2013 New Zealander of the Year

Chair of the Local Government & Environment Committee,
NZ Government,
Parliament Buildings,

Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill
Local Government and Environment Select Committee
17 April 2014


This submission is made by Historic Places Aotearoa Inc. (HPA) which
welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Building (Earthquake-prone
Buildings) (EPB) Amendment Bill (the Bill).

The reasons for making this submission are that HPA promotes the
preservation of historic places in Aotearoa New Zealand. HPA also has
an interest to promote the education of the public in the appreciation of
heritage values. HPA is a key stakeholder in the consultation process and
answerable to its affiliated regional societies and membership.

HPA has reviewed this Bill and considered the impact the proposed
amendments will make on heritage buildings.

HPA has a particular interest in the subject of this Bill, for the merits
of the sustainable urban quality and distinctive character of New
Zealand cities and towns. Making those policies workable requires
appropriate resourcing, especially of the right quantity and level of
engineering and related professional skills. There are public-good
benefits which justify public investment side-by-side with the costs
and benefits for private and corporate owners of heritage buildings.

HPA is generally supportive of the requirements of the Bill. It believes it
strikes an appropriate balance between protecting people from possible
harm and managing the costs associated with strengthening whilst at the
same time, recognizing the need to preserve New Zealand’s heritage. A
national consistent approach is preferable to the variety of approaches
which prevail under the current system. The policy shift to greater
guidance from central government should assist those Territorial
Authorities (TAs) with more limited access to expertise, resources and

The aim of the Bill is to improve the system for managing Earthquake
Prone Buildings (EPB). It notes that the current system is not achieving
an acceptable level of risk and that many EPB are not being dealt with in
a timely and cost effective manner.

The amendments to the Bill include:
• Requiring TAs to undertake seismic assessment of non residential
buildings within 5 years using a nationally consistent system based
on a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)
methodology. (Includes residential buildings if greater than two
stories and greater than 3 residential units.)

• MBIE to provide a register of seismic capacity of buildings.

• Clarifying that the current seismic threshold for defining EPB
applies to parts of buildings as well as whole buildings.

• Clarifying that the level of work required for earthquakeprone
buildings is only such that the building, or the affected
part, is no longer earthquake-prone.

• Requiring work on existing earthquake-prone buildings to be
undertaken within a single national timeframe—within 20
years of the legislation taking effect (i.e. assessment by territorial
authorities within 5 years and work completed within 15 years),

• Providing for work on priority buildings (to be defined in
regulations) to be prioritised: (This covers where buildings could
impede transport on routes of strategic importance and buildings
required for public safety.

• Providing for exemptions from requirements to undertake
work for certain buildings:

• Providing that owners of buildings that are Category 1 historic
places under the Historic Places Act 1993 may apply to the
relevant territorial authority for an extension of up to 10 years
to complete the work, and the owners must manage risk if an
extension is granted:

• Providing for a much greater role for central government, including
in relation to monitoring system performance, and providing
direction and guidance. (Relates to administration but does not
indicate a step up in leadership, encouragement or incentives to
strengthen EPB.)

• The current strengthening requirements for EPB will not change
from the existing 33% of the New Building Standard (NBS).

• Owners who’ve already had a seismic assessment under the current
regime and have been given less than 15 years will have to work to
the timeframe they have been given.

HPA particularly endorses the following changes:

• the requirement for Territorial Authorities to undertake a seismic
capacity assessment within 5 years for all non-residential and multi-unit or
multi-storey residential buildings;

• provision of a publicly searchable register of seismic capacity to be
held by MBIE;

• setting a national time frame of 20 years for completion of work (5
years for assessment and 15 years for compliance) with provision for
exceptions for some heritage buildings, low risk buildings and priority
building,(to be defined by regulation) ;
• exempting earthquake strengthening work from triggering the
disability access and fire access upgrades (subject to guidelines to be
developed by MBIE);
• providing that if a building has already had an assessment that is
recognised under the new system and the owner has been given more than
15 years to strengthen that building, they will now only have 15 years to

HPA welcomes clarification that:

• the definition of earthquake-prone building can apply to parts of
• that the level of work required for earthquake-prone buildings is only
such that the building, or the affected part, is no longer earthquake-prone:
• and that if a building will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a
moderate earthquake (as defined in regulations the building is earthquake
prone only if there is a likelihood of injury, death, or damage being caused
if the building were to collapse (rather than a likelihood that the building
would collapse).

Specific recommendations

Section 133AC
HPA fully supports the provision to require a TA to prioritise assessment
of priority buildings and to allow for a shortened time frame for
compliance. The effectiveness of this provision will depend on the
regulations to be made under section 104C and the methodology to be set
in accordance with section133AG. HPA believes that the definition of
priority building must include features such as unsecured gables, parapets
and walls facing public spaces on URM buildings. Although the
definition of an earthquake prone building already takes account of
ground conditions where particularly high risk geotechnical conditions
can be identified this might also trigger priority assessment.

Section 133AT
HPA notes that the power to grant an extension of time for heritage
buildings set out in this section applies only to Category 1 buildings,
though the definition of heritage building in the Bill includes both
Category 1 and 2 buildings under the NZHPT Act. The legislative impact
assessment has also been made on the basis that extension can apply to
category 1 and 2 buildings. HPA submits that the Bill should be amended
to allow for an application for extension of time by owners of both
Category 1 and category 2 buildings even though many heritage buildings
would also be likely to qualify for exemption under 133AS. We note that
the impact assessment raises the concern that allowing an extension for
heritage buildings could lead to demolition by neglect. HPA shares this
concern and feels that in general it is desirable to bring all heritage
buildings up to strength as soon as possible, nevertheless we recognise
that unless heritage building owners have recourse to financial assistance
or other forms of incentive, many face real financial hurdles in bringing
buildings up to strength. If the section were broadened to include both
Category 1 and 2 buildings it would allow the TA discretion to extend
time for a building which is ranked more highly in the District Plan than
on the Heritage New Zealand Register. Concern that broadening this
power would lead to its overuse could be addressed by including a new
provision enabling regulations to be made setting out criteria to guide
TAs in the exercise of this discretion.

Greater clarity is also needed in the situation where a heritage building
might fall within the definition of a priority building. The Bill recognises
this possibility in proposed section 133A0(4) but the wording for the
completion deadline is unnecessarily complicated. It is the view of HPA,
that if a heritage building is also a priority building then the deadline for a
priority buildings should apply.

Section 133AW

HPC is concerned that the Bill provides for unnecessary costs on TAs and
therefore ratepayers where an owner has failed to comply with a deadline.
It is important that the TA is able to carry out the seismic work itself in
this case but the requirement to obtain authorisation from the District
Court seems unnecessarily burdensome. The TA should be permitted to
act after reasonable notice shifting the burden to the owner to apply to the
Court if they object. If this change were adopted the minimum period of
notice should be increased from 10 days. Alternatively the Bill should be
amended to make it clear that the TA can recover not only the cost of the
work but also the cost of applying to the Court.

General Comments

HPA submits that the extended deadline for completing seismic work
under cl 133AO and ability to apply for a further extension under cl
133AT should apply to all heritage buildings as defined under cl 6 of the
Bill, rather than confined to Category 1 heritage buildings.

There are approximately 15,000 - 20,000 buildings that are potentially
earthquake prone buildings in New Zealand. The heritage buildings
currently registered either as category 1 or category 2 heritage buildings
represent a very small proportion of that total. However, the loss of such
buildings, if heritage building owners are not given some ability to
manage the costs of earthquake strengthening, would represent a
significant permanent alteration of our city and townscapes to the
detriment of our cultural identity.

Clause 6 of the Bill defines "heritage building" as a building registered as
a historic place under Part 2 of the Historic Places Act 1993. This
definition includes both category 1 and category 2 heritage buildings. To
be registered, a building must be either a place of special and outstanding
historical or cultural heritage significance or value (category 1) or a place
of historical or cultural heritage significance or value (category 2). This
categorisation is carried over into the New Zealand Heritage List in the
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill, which is currently before

HPA submits that category 1 buildings represent a very small proportion
of heritage buildings in New Zealand. Given that category 2 buildings
represent places of historical or cultural heritage significance and value,
the owners of these buildings should also be given both the extended
deadline for completing seismic work under cl 133AO as well as the
ability to apply for a further extension under cl 133AT. Cl 133AT(4)
adequately addresses any safety concerns by requiring the building owner
to take all reasonably practicable steps to manage any risks associated
with the building being earthquake prone. Accordingly, HPA submit that
the definition of "heritage building" should apply to cls 133AO and
133AT, rather than category 1 buildings only.

Funding the reforms.

The Bill seems to assume that the cost of the seismic assessment will be
borne by the TA. Because the definition of earthquake proneness takes
into account locality, TAs in areas facing great earthquake risk will face
higher costs than others. In high-risk rural regions the number of
buildings to be assessed may be fewer but the rating base will also be less.

Consideration needs to be given within the Bill to providing for full or
partial cost recovery from building owners. Policy consideration also
needs to be given to setting up a fund to assist TAs facing particular
hardship in carrying out their responsibilities resulting from the proposed
changes. Even if changes are made to allow cost recovery, some will
face real difficulties with the up-front costs of the assessment before they
can recover from the owners.

HPA wishes to appear before the Committee to speak to their submission.

Dr. Anna Crighton
Historic Places Aotearoa
P O Box 693
Christchurch 8041

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