There should be a single, national policy for unreinforced masonry buildings - blamed for the deaths of 40 people in the Christchurch earthquake, a report for the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission says.
It recommends all unreinforced masonry buildings - constructed without any reinforcing elements such as steel reinforcing bars - be improved to meet at least 67 per cent of the standard required for new buildings.
There were an estimated 3867 such buildings in New Zealand and it would cost about $2 billion to upgrade them all - even more than the $1.5 billion they were thought to be worth, the report said.
Due to this cost, it recommended first priority be given to securing or removing buildings posing immediate falling hazards.
The report discusses the architectural characteristics and seismic vulnerability of the buildings, makes observations about how they fared in the earthquakes, and discusses available techniques for seismic upgrading.
It's authors, Associate Professor Jason Ingham from the University of Auckland and Professor Michael Griffith from the University of Adelaide, recommend there be one national standard for unreinforced masonry buildings instead of policies set by individual regional authorities.
Forty people died in the 22 February 2011 earthquake due to the failure of unreinforced masonry buildings in and near the Christchurch CBD, the report said.
Meanwhile, the Insurance Council of New Zealand has responded to claims insurers are holding up the Canterbury rebuild and has sought to assure those affected that normal insurance cover will be reinstated as soon as possible.
Labour leader Phil Goff said on Tuesday that rebuilding Christchurch had ``stalled'' because of insurers' reluctance to pay claims and to insure new buildings, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Mr Goff said the Government should consider stepping in and acting as a last resort insurer.
Finance Minister Bill English said the Government was "not looking at setting ourselves up as an insurance company'' but he acknowledged there were "any number of stories about people being quoted very high prices for insurance in a way that makes it almost impossible for them to get it''.
The Insurance Council said in a statement that while insurance was available for almost all Cantabrians, difficulties arose for people moving into the region and wishing to get insurance.
"Insurers are conscious of the concerns of a small number of Cantabrians not being able to get insurance, but are confident that the vast majority of Cantabrians have, and will retain, insurance for the long-term future,'' the industry lobby group said.
The main problem for insurers was the continuing aftershocks in the region.
"Insurers are concerned that the aftershocks, even relatively minor ones, are doing continued damage to properties on already liquefacted land.
"Insurers will be doing everything they can to meet claims, make payments, and return to normal conditions as soon as the aftershocks cease, and a clearer understanding of the status of much land under the Canterbury region is known.
"In the meantime all claims that can be settled will be paid and the insurance industry reassures the Government, Opposition and Cantabrians that they are making all efforts to provide long-term, full cover, and respond to all claims as quickly as they possibly can.''