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Public consultations on quake-prone buildings begin

A series of seven public meetings on the proposals will kick off tomorrow night in Wellington. Photo / APN
A series of seven public meetings on the proposals will kick off tomorrow night in Wellington. Photo / APN

Public consultation meetings will be held across New Zealand this month as the Government looks to make changes to its system for dealing with earthquake-prone buildings.

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission last year made 36 recommendations on quake-prone buildings, including the introduction of tougher building regulations and an at-risk buildings register.

Buildings failures accounted for most of the 185 fatalities in Christchurch's massive February 22, 2011 quake.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said public submissions would be crucial in establishing a new policy to protect buildings from ground shaking.

Proposals for a national approach to deal with quake-prone buildings are currently out for consultation, and if adopted would mean all identified buildings would be dealt with within 15 years, compared with the current average of 28 years.

The first of seven public meetings on the proposals will be held tomorrow night in Wellington.

And just three days ahead of the second anniversary of the February 22 disaster there will be a public meeting in Christchurch.

"Getting the policy right involves striking a balance between the risks posed by buildings in earthquakes and the costs of strengthening, or demolishing, them," said Mr Williamson, who will be at several meetings including tomorrow night's at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

There will also be meetings in other main centres before the consultation process ends on March 8.

Individual local authorities are currently responsible for how quake-prone buildings are dealt with in their areas.

Mr Williamson said that while some councils have been active in consulting their communities, others less so.

It's resulted in many quake-prone buildings not being dealt with in a "timely and cost-effective way", he said.

Under the proposed changes, all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings would have to be assessed within five years.

Owners of buildings assessed as being earthquake-prone would then have up to 10 years to strengthen or demolish them.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has issued a consultation document and a DVD which explain the proposed changes in detail.

Mr Williamson urged people to attend the meetings or give written feedback.

The consultation document, details of the public meetings, and an online response form can be found here.

- APNZ

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