The Auckland Council is being asked to keep a list of 4300 buildings that could tumble and kill in an earthquake hidden from the public.
Telling Aucklanders which buildings are likely to collapse in a moderate earthquake could generate panic or blacklisting of those properties, says a panel that heard public submissions on a draft earthquake-prone policy.
"The likelihood that the information will be misconstrued is significant as shown in the case of information released to the media earlier this year," said the panel.
The panel, comprising councillors Penny Webster, Michael Goudie and Local Board member Ken Baguley, has recommended not publishing the list of earthquake-prone buildings.
Instead, people will have go through the Local Government Information and Meetings Act to obtain what the panel acknowledges is "publicly available on individual public records".
Seeking information under the act usually takes about a month and is not a process most people understand or are comfortable with.
The Wellington City Council makes its list of earthquake-prone buildings publicly available online.
The council will decide on Thursday whether to follow the recommendation of the panel or make the list public.
Ms Webster, who chaired the panel, said yesterday it was a difficult call because it involved private property versus the public right to know.
The council is required under the Building Act to develop an earthquake-prone policy. Earthquake-prone buildings are defined under the act as likely to collapse causing injury or death in a moderate earthquake.
The Auckland Council has been reluctant to give Aucklanders details of earthquake-prone buildings.
After initially refusing to release a preliminary "earthquake-prone building register" prepared by the former Auckland City Council to the Herald, the council relented in May and gave a list of 393 unreinforced masonry buildings likely to collapse in a moderate earthquake.
The list of pre-1940 commercial buildings showed many hot spots in old town centres built at the turn of the 20th century, including Mt Eden, Kingsland, Balmoral, Mt Albert, Mt Roskill, Epsom, Remuera, Parnell, Ponsonby, Jervois Rd, Karangahape Rd, Queen St and the central city.
Ms Webster said the council was waiting on the outcome of the Canterbury earthquakes royal commission and any subsequent law changes before making significant changes to its draft policy.
After the Canterbury quakes, the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences confirmed a 2006 study it undertook which found that Auckland was an area of low seismic risk.
The council has begun a process of assessing earthquake-prone buildings built before 1976, when the building code was strengthened, over the next four years at a cost of up to $2.3 million. By next month, officers will have completed an initial evaluation of the 4300 buildings, which will be given to building owners who will have three months to give e additional information to improve the accuracy of the assessment.
The panel has recommended that these buildings be strengthened by 2035.
But the panel does not support a suggestion to place notices on buildings to show they are earthquake risks.
The panel has also recommended developing an incentive package for strengthening heritage and character buildings.
On the list
Auckland buildings at risk in quake.
Mt Eden, Kingsland, Balmoral, Mt Albert, Mt Roskill, Epsom, Remuera, Parnell, Ponsonby, Jervois Rd, Karangahape Rd, Queen St and the central city.