A Lower Hutt company has become the first in New Zealand to be prosecuted for failing to complete earthquake strengthening of a building it owns in Petone.
The case centres on an earthquake-prone building notice issued to the company in 2008, and follows years of repeated attempts by Hutt City Council to get Alura Ltd to strengthen the building to a safe standard.
Alura was fined $37,500 after earlier pleading guilty to one charge under the Building Act.
The building is at 307 Jackson St, within the Jackson Street Heritage Precinct.
The charge carried a maximum fine of $200,000.
In his sentencing decision, the judge described Alura's failure to strengthen or demolish the building for almost a decade as "egregious".
He said the sentence reflects the risk the building poses to human life, the length of time Alura failed to comply with the notice, and the need to deter other earthquake-prone building owners from delaying strengthening or demolition.
"The defendant has continued to generate rental income from residential tenants, who have been put at risk by the defendant's non-compliance," he said.
Council's divisional manager of environmental consents Helen Oram said the judge's sentencing comments mirror council's key concerns.
The judge appeared to share council's overriding concern for the safety of Alura's tenants, those visiting the building and pedestrians passing by, she said.
"As a nation, we learnt some harsh lessons from the Christchurch and Kaikōura quakes, and local authorities and property owners need to keep these lessons top of mind.
"We're determined not to have that kind of tragedy happening in Lower Hutt.
"One of council's main aims when taking this prosecution was to send the message to other building owners, who might be thinking about dragging their feet on earthquake strengthening, that they need to think again."
Last month, council issued a notice for occupants to vacate the building so it could be strengthened or demolished.
"We're hoping that this case will make it clear that council won't tolerate delaying tactics by owners of quake-prone buildings."