The business Chris Gudgeon leads owned Christchurch's quake-damaged PricewaterhouseCoopers Centre, one of the city's biggest to be demolished after the earthquakes.

Although Kiwi Income Property Trust's chief executive backs a tougher seismic building regime, he is worried. "Strengthening needs to happen. We can't ignore the Canterbury earthquake lessons but the Government needs to deal with some big issues."

Affordability is a huge issue for small businesses and building owners, Mr Gudgeon says. "Strengthening is a cost burden - with no return. Owners of small buildings will be under pressure from their banks and insurers yet the rating base of many smaller communities relies on keeping these investors/businesses solvent by helping them deal with the economic loss. As a minimum, the tax system should recognise that dealing with structural obsolescence is a cost of doing business. It is unbelievable that currently it doesn't."

Upgrading old buildings to a third of new building standard is not good enough in some cases. "Already there are situations in provincial main streets where tenants are moving out, even if the building is not earthquake prone," he says.


Dealing with the need to strengthen or demolish heritage buildings will be a nightmare if councils don't get some guidance on the issue. "Everyone ends up getting bogged down with the Historic Places Trust. Approval procedures for strengthening or demolition need to be streamlined," Mr Gudgeon says.

Administration of the new system could be a massive burden for councils. "Many small councils believe the timeframes are unworkable and the cost of administration unaffordable," he says.

"This is a major issue for the Government, smaller/rural communities, small businesses/building owners and local government. Only by working together at the highest level can we address the magnitude of the problem and come up with workable solutions and timeframes."