Councillor Iona Pannett stands by warning for people not to buy apartments in Wellington after grilling on AM

A Wellington City Councillor is standing by her message for potential apartment buyers not to buy in the Capital until policy and legislation around earthquake strengthening is changed.   

Wellington City Councillor Iona Pannett issued the stark warning on Wednesday, saying that costs for earthquake strengthening and insurance are rising.   

She says the issues don't just affect "millionaires" and is calling on the new government to review laws around earthquake strengthening, which were put into place in 2016.  

Pannett told AM on Thursday people could be looking at a bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars to strengthen their apartment in the coming years.   

"At the moment, we're probably looking at around $400,000 as a minimum for apartments, which sometimes are worth about that or a bit more and we know for everyone, insurance costs are going up," she said.  

"The $400,000 is for earthquake strengthening and while the government has a loan scheme, that just doesn't cover the whole cost. My concern is many of these apartments need to be strengthened by 2027 and they will not be able to achieve that goal.  

"Every apartment will be a bit different, but people are sometimes looking at paying that level of cost in relation to the value of their apartment. We're not talking about millionaires here."  

She warns the problem has seen some apartment owners forced into sales because they couldn't afford to pay the cost of strengthening.  

"In one case, someone is now renting because they just can't afford to buy a new place. Other people are in the agonising process of trying to decide what to do and they've had to put their lives on hold while getting numerous expensive engineering reports," she said.   

"There are some people getting on with it but it's very expensive and then of course there's an opportunity cost in terms of being able to pay for other things like retirement."  

When grilled by AM co-host Ryan Bridge about whether she has gone about it in the "smartest way", given she could be turning some potential buyers away, making it harder for people to sell up, Pannett said she's just raising an issue that she's been talking about for several years.   

"We need to take a rational approach to the policy and the legislation around this issue, but I think we need to be really clear there are very significant costs and people need to be made aware of it so that they can make the best choices for themselves," she said.   

Bridge asked if her message was for people not to buy an apartment anywhere in Wellington. She said "yes" before he went on to question if she was re-victimising the people she's trying to help.  

"What I'm calling for is for the government to take another look at this, to resolve this issue.  It doesn't make it right to say to people, go on, buy an apartment without making them aware of the costs," she said. 

"There'll be a cycle where a building will become earthquake-prone as the building resilience moves on and as the insurers change their policy and approach. So people have to be very, very careful."  

When asked if she stands by her message of urging anyone thinking of moving to Wellington to not buy an apartment, she said she does.    

"Until the policy and the legislation and the funding mechanism issues are resolved, yes," she said. 

Watch the full interview with Iona Pannett in the video above.