Fifty-seven Tauranga buildings identified as being at risk in a large earthquake have been issued with notices to fix, but another 353 potentially risky buildings in the area have yet to be assessed.

The Bay of Plenty Times requested the information from Tauranga City Council after last week's earthquake in the South Island caused extensive damage.

According to council records, no consents had been issued to carry out the requested strengthening for the 57 Tauranga buildings.

But council manager for environmental monitoring Andrew McMath said all 57 buildings on the list had been assessed by engineers and none posed a current risk.

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"If there had been anything that could have triggered a dangerous building notice, the engineers would have picked that up," he said.

The council had identified 723 buildings as potentially at risk since starting its earthquake strengthening programme in 2006, but had been able to assess only 268, resulting in the 57 notices issued.

The other 353 potentially risky buildings have yet to be assessed because council officials were waiting for central government to clarify the new regulatory regime in the wake of legislation passed in May.

Their assessment was on hold because council officials wanted to clarify what resources would be needed before going ahead with hiring a budgeted fulltime staff member to carry out the work.

"We are going to wait for the regulations to come though so we don't over-resource it, or under-resource it," said Mr McMath.

"We need to know exactly what our role is and how we need to resource it appropriately."

The Government policy has focused on buildings assessed as having 33 per cent or less of the strength of buildings built to current Building Code standards. To identify them, the Tauranga council adopted broad criteria, which included whether buildings had been built before 1976 when new seismic building codes were introduced.

What you can say is that, given we've had these three or four significant events in a very short space of time, it's no longer a case of being unlikely an earthquake will ever happen.

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The buildings with fix notices are mostly in the Tauranga business district and Mount Maunganui. They included one - 85 The Strand, built pre-1936 - which was identified as reaching only 4.7 per cent of the new standard. However, Mr McMath emphasised that all of the buildings issued with at-risk notices had been identified as safe.



Building owners under the current at-risk notices issued by the council had 10 years to complete strengthening. But the new legislation might increase that to 25 years, depending on the criteria for a particular building and area, which Mr McMath said was a significant change.

Ben Gower, one of the owners of 105 The Strand, which had a fix notice on it, said landlords were responding to market pressures rather than council action.

Of the potentially risky buildings not yet assessed by council, consent records showed owners had acted independently to strengthen 88, while 14 had been demolished.

Lloyd Davidson, a Bayleys commercial and industrial consultant, said there were a lot of grey areas at the moment, particularly with time extensions to fix earthquake prone buildings.

"We've had legal opinions in the case of certain properties that we've taken to market recently, and there is greyness around their interpretation as to what impact the new legislation is going to have."

Beca Bay of Plenty regional manager Gavin Frost said he thought it was unlikely there would be a clear direction for a while on how council would implement new earthquake regulations.

"What you can say is that, given we've had these three or four significant events in a very short space of time, it's no longer a case of being unlikely an earthquake will ever happen," he said.

"We now have a heightened risk for building owners to consider."

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016

- Takes into account the findings of the commission into the Canterbury earthquakes.

- Received the Royal Assent in May 2016, but has not yet taken effect.

Business in no hurry to strengthen

Ben Gower of The Landmark Partnership, which owns 105 The Strand, leased to Cobb & Co, says council-imposed deadlines on earthquake strengthening are in some cases preventing the natural rejuvenation of the city. He also said engineering consultants' opinions on what work needed to be done could vary widely.

The Cobb & Co building is listed as historic, category 2, and received a notice to fix in January 2009. It was assessed as meeting only 19 per cent of the new building standards, with 10 years to carry out the work.

"The reason we haven't strengthened 105 The Strand is strategic," he said.

"Since the Christchurch earthquake, a number of our buildings have been assessed and some need work, and that's all right. But I have seen a lot of money wasted on strengthening work that wasn't necessary."

Mr Gower said strengthening technology was improving at a fast rate. Putting it off as long as possible was not irresponsible, but just made sense.

"In the end market pressures force change in unsafe buildings," he said.

"The banks want them strengthened, the insurance companies want them strengthened, the tenants want them strengthened. If you've got a building with inadequate strength, it is commercially unviable anyway, because of all the market forces in play."

Earthquake-prone buildings in CBD
1289 Cameron Rd
1295 Cameron Rd
1305 Cameron Rd
19 Devonport Rd
22 Devonport Rd
31 Devonport Rd
42 Devonport Rd
46 Devonport Rd
52 Devonport Rd
54 Devonport Rd
66 Devonport Rd
106 Devonport Rd
9 Dive Cres
10 Dive Cres
14 Dive Cres
19 Dive Cres
153 Durham St
45 Grey St
107 Grey St
14 Harington St
78 Maunganui Rd
79 Maunganui Rd
80 Maunganui Rd
88 Maunganui Rd
90 Maunganui Rd
98 Maunganui Rd
113 Maunganui Rd
132 Maunganui Rd
134 Maunganui Rd
150 Maunganui Rd
160 Maunganui Rd
162 Maunganui Rd
166 Maunganui Rd
168 Maunganui Rd
176 Maunganui Rd
180 Maunganui Rd
183 Maunganui Rd
188 Maunganui Rd
16 Pacific Ave
21 Spring St
27 The Strand
45 The Strand
49 The Strand
55 The Strand
83 The Strand
85 The Strand
87 The Strand
103 The Strand
105 The Strand
40 Wharf St
62 Willow St
68 Willow St
116 Willow St
117 Willow St
124 Willow St
131 Willow St
136 Willow St
Source: Tauranga City Council