Change to shake district

By Erika Venter

Some of Stratford, Eltham, Kaponga and Inglewood's historic buildings might irretrievably be lost, changing the face of the district's main streets, should a government proposal on earthquake-prone buildings get the nod.

A consultation document by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) proposes a mandatory national requirement and timeframe which will require councils to seismically assess all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings within five years of the changes taking effect. Owners would then have a further 10 years to either strengthen or demolish buildings identified as earthquake-prone.

"It involves striking a careful balance between protecting life and safety, and the huge costs of strengthening or demolishing buildings. There are good arguments for and against pretty much any decision," says minister Maurice Williamson.

At present, local authorities are responsible for decisions on how earthquake-prone buildings should be dealt with.

Stratford District Council says it only requires assessments where there is a change of use or a building consent for structural work on a building.

Chief executive Sue Davidson says most buildings in the CBD would likely require strengthening.

"The costs of this exercise and short timeframe on a small rural town would be substantial."

Sue says very few rural buildings carry any significant risk.

"Perhaps the associated risks need to be taken account of when determining the compliance timeline."

She says staff are evaluating the implications of the proposals and that a full report will go to council for making a submission.

South Taranaki District Council says it intends to hold a workshop for elected members on the proposal and is likely to make an e-submission.

"Elected Members have already expressed concern about this issue," says John McKenzie Group Manager Environmental Services.

Taranaki already has had a spate of tremors and quakes in the new year; the latest a 2.8 and later a 2.7 shake on Saturday which readers in Stratford and Eltham reported to have felt and a 2.4 quake on Sunday night. There was no damage however, and according to GNS scientists we have nothing to worry about.

The consultation document is on Have your say through the online response form by 5pm on March 8.

- Stratford Press

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