Earthquake app Survive-It tells you if you're in an earthquake-prone building - but not all councils are onboard

A new app alerting users if they are in an earthquake-prone building could cause problems for property owners and even some councils.

The Survive-It app uses official Government information to notify people when they are in or near a building that is earthquake-prone. 

Steven MacLauchlan, managing director of the company that created the app, says knowing how safe a building is could make all the difference if a quake hits.

"With the app we can help people make better decisions - if you're in a building, yes you should drop, cover, hold, but then if your building's earthquake-prone you might want to get out as quick as you can," he told The AM Show on Tuesday.

MacLauchlan says there are thousands of earthquake-prone buildings across the country, but many of those do not display notices alerting people to that fact.

"It's supposed to be a $20,000 fine if you don't have it on display."

He says councils need to do more to police buildings that fail to show the notices.

"You get a parking ticket because you're five metres over, well why not give the parking wardens this app? If your building doesn't have a notice give them a warning - you've got 10 days to do it and if you don't do it there's a $20,000 fine."

MacLauchlan says the responsibility falls on both building owners and local councils.

"There's a lot of building owners not compliant, and the other part is there's a lot of councils that are not compliant. 

"It is crazy. They're required under the Building Act to do this."

Among the places that had no earthquake-prone buildings listed on the official register were Hamilton, Napier, Gisborne and Dunedin, MacLauchlan said.

There were various reasons why the buildings hadn't been listed.

"Some building owners may not have had their assessments done yet, some may be waiting, the councils maybe don't have enough staff, they're not interested in the compliance."

But councils say it can be a long and hard process identifying at-risk structures.

Neil McLeod, Dunedin City Council's principal advisor building solutions, says it could take up to a decade before Dunedin will have all the information needed to identify all potentially earthquake-prone buildings.

Because the city has been classified as having a low earthquake risk, the council has 15 years to carry out the process of identifying at-risk buildings, McLeod said. 

Property owners then have 25 years to carry out seismic strengthening work.

"It is important to note that an earthquake-prone building is different to a 'dangerous' building. If we consider a building to be dangerous as defined by the Building Act, we would take immediate action."

A number of building owners had already voluntarily carried out seismic strengthening work, McLeod said. 

Gisborne District Council's building service manager, Ian Petty, said 42 buildings were currently on the list in the city and notices were placed in prominent places on earthquake-prone buildings in the CBD.

"We are working towards getting all the buildings on the national register, this work should be finished by the end of March," Petty told Newshub.

People concerned whether a building is earthquake-prone or not, could either check if there was a notice displayed or call the Building Services section of the council, Petty said.

Hamilton City Council also pointed out it was classified as a medium seismic area and its deadline for identifying potential at-risk buildings was not until 2022 for priority buildings and 2027 for others.

"The council is presently reviewing and validating its building information to be in a position to upload to the national (MBIE) register and issue appropriate notices within those timeframes," a council spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Napier City Council said its focus to date has been identifying priority buildings, which it completed last year. 

"The next steps for us are to cross-check data from our previous earthquake-prone building policy to confirm any buildings that have been assessed as being earthquake-prone. Once confirmed we will be issuing the required notices and then updating the Earthquake-prone Building Register.

Newshub has also approached Upper Hutt City Council for comment.