Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Tougher rules to build on risky land

Tough new engineering standards will make it harder and more expensive to build on risky or hazardous land in Rotorua.

Rotorua District Councillors voted unanimously to approve changes to the Rotorua Civil Engineering Industry Standard at a meeting of the council's infrastructure services committee yesterday.

In his report, acting Infrastructure Services group manager Andy Bell said staff had reviewed the standards after recent changes to legislation, the Christchurch earthquakes and liquefaction, a natural hazards study and issues with the controversial Oakland Estate subdivision on Western Rd where at least three properties had suffered from major subsidence.

He said the onus would be on developers to get the correct advice from qualified professionals before the council gave consent for a new development.

Mr Bell said a new three-tier system giving guidance to council staff and developers would be put in place to help identify any potential problems.

"Development in Rotorua is now occurring in areas that previously were difficult to develop such as urban fringes with steeper slopes, stream margins and historic lake edges."

Mr Bell said the new standards would ensure Rotorua was keeping up with the rest of the country and would raise the bar for developers looking to build on more risky sites.

He said the general feeling from local civil engineering consultants was positive with most telling Mr Bell they would comply with the new standards.

"Basically we have all of the natural hazards here ... more than any other community in New Zealand."

Mr Bell told councillors costs for new developments on marginal land would go up.

"The responsibility will be on the developers' experts ... and they understand the level of responsibility they have to take with their eyes open."

He said it would require all parts of the Building Act to be assessed as part of a development "... there will be no 'outs' if anything goes wrong," Mr Bell said.

Committee chairwoman Glenys Searancke said the new standards were "... inevitable ... as a result of Western Rd".

Former district councillor and Western Rd property developer Geoff Kenny told The Daily Post he praised his former colleagues for deciding to upgrade engineering standards.

"If it was in place when I started my project we would probably not be in this situation.

"We have all learnt from experience ... This is a very sensible and very timely decision," he said.


Level 1: Land with low hazard and risk will require certification by a chartered professional engineer.

Level 2: Land with general risk or one identifiable hazard will require certification by a chartered professional engineer and peer review by a geotechnical professional.

Level 3: Land with high hazard and risk will require certification by an expert geotechnical professional with suitable qualifications.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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