Quake-prone parapet fixes to be made quicker

Quake-prone parapet fixes to be made quicker

Thousands of buildings with dangerous overhanging parapets, verandas and other unreinforced masonry will face stricter earthquake strengthening requirements.

The change comes in a new amendment proposed by Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith which will be brought to Parliament under an amendment to the Building Act.

It follows strong submissions from several people, including earthquake survivor Ann Brower, and will slash the amount of time some building owners have to carry out quake strengthening.

Ms Brower has previously been a strong critic of the Government's proposed earthquake strengthening amendments and has argued they were ignoring "low-lying fruit", by failing to target the weak facades and verandas hanging over streets around the country.

She was seriously injured when a parapet and facade fell onto the bus she was travelling in during the February 2011 earthquake.

Dr Smith says a new category of priority buildings will be added to the amendment to cover buildings with unreinforced masonry which could fall onto a public road, footpath or other thoroughfare.

Around 2000 buildings are likely to be affected and the owners be given half the normal time to strengthen their properties. The time limit will depend on which part of the country they live in, as different areas have been classified as high, medium and low risk.

Local councils will be required to identify which buildings have sufficient vehicle or pedestrian traffic to warrant prioritisation.

"We need to heed every possible lesson from the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch in rewriting the building laws to minimise future fatalities. Falling parts of unreinforced masonry like parapets and facades killed 35 people that tragic day, including every passenger on the Red Bus except Ann Brower," Dr Smith says.

"We do not want this new priority status being applied to buildings in areas where there are few people being put at risk. Councils will have the task of identifying those areas with sufficient vehicle or pedestrian traffic to justify the new priority category. Our expectation is that all commonly used retail areas like central business districts will be included."

The bill will be subject to a second reading, committee stages and third reading, but the Government aims to have the legislation passed by the end of the year.

3 News