Gaps highlighted by the Kaikōura and Canterbury earthquakes in the way buildings are managed during and after emergencies will be plugged by a new bill giving the Government and officials new powers.

The Building Amendment Bill, in the name of Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa and introducing two new sets of powers, passed its first reading in Parliament today.

"The Building Amendment Bill proposes new powers to address risks to people and property from buildings during and after an emergency," Salesa said.

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"The contents of this bill are drawn from sources including the findings of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission, experiences from recent emergencies and consultation that took place across government with stakeholders and the public," she said in a statement.

The bill also includes special provisions for carrying out works on heritage buildings to ensure their heritage values are protected.

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi said the bill provided greater clarity on roles and responsibilities in relation to managing buildings in an emergency, and a smooth transition between the Civil Defence emergency powers and the powers proposed in the bill.

The amendments will give the Building and Construction Minister, territorial and civil defence emergency authorities new emergency powers including evacuating buildings, closing roads and ordering the demolition of dangerous buildings.

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The bill also clarifies the powers of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to investigate significant building failures, including those arising from design and construction deficiencies.

The bill would allow investigators to secure and enter buildings, carry out inspections, require information from anyone who may hold information on the building failure, share that information with relevant bodies, and communicate reports and findings.

MBIE has investigated six major building failures to date – Southland Stadium, Forsyth Barr building, Pyne Gould Corporation building, Hotel Grand Chancellor, Canterbury Television building and Statistics House – but has relied on the co-operation of building owners and incomplete information.

New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors vice president Rory Crosbie said the bill was a good platform to look at what worked and what didn't during the Kaikōura and Canterbury earthquakes in terms of building management.

Crosbie, a Christchurch surveyor, said Civil Defence took over during the quakes there.

"They found there were certain buildings they wanted to demolish in a fast way to get the city to function again but the systems in place were sufficient to speed up that process.
Crosbie cautioned that the proposed changes could cause issues for building owners, including on insurance, and their rights.

"The Building and Construction Minister will have the power to take direct action and make decisions, such as demolish buildings where warranted," Crosbie said.