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Unreinforced masonry facades and parapets posing a risk to the public in areas like Wellington with a heightened risk of an aftershock from the Kaikoura earthquake need to be secured within a year, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith has announced.

“The Kaikoura Earthquake has significantly increased the seismic risks in Wellington, Lower Hutt and Blenheim during the next three years. The prudent response is to require and to assist building owners of these high-risk, unreinforced masonry parapets and facades to secure them urgently. The tieback work comes at a cost of about $20,000-$30,000 but significantly reduces the risk of fatalities in an earthquake,” Dr Smith says.

The Government is using its powers under the Hurunui/Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery Act 2016 to require building owners to do the work within 12 months. The Government and councils are also providing a 50 per cent subsidy for the work up to a maximum grant of $15,000 for a façade and $10,000 for a parapet to help building owners with the cost.

“Falling unreinforced masonry facades and parapets pose a major risk to people on the street during an earthquake. We saw the terrible harm that can be done when 39 people were killed by unreinforced masonry in the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.

“I appreciate the cost this new requirement imposes on building owners, which is why the Government has established a $3 million fund that will, with councils, cover up to half the cost of the securing work. I call on building owners to make use of the fund and carry out the necessary work on their building to reduce this risk.”

The Government will also be using its powers under the special law to exempt the work to secure these facades and parapets from requirements to gain resource and building consents providing the work is overseen by a qualified engineer. The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will be providing guidance on securing parapets and facades to facilitate the work being completed as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

“This initiative has come about as a consequence of recommendations by the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineers in a report prepared for me in late December about the heightened risk following the Kaikoura earthquake. It is estimated that there are about 300 buildings in this high-risk category. I also acknowledge the strong support from the affected councils for this urgent safety initiative,” Dr Smith says.

“This is about taking a prudent and pragmatic approach to the aftershock risks from the Kaikoura earthquake, while acknowledging we cannot remove all the risks. The initiative complements the checks being made on buildings following the preliminary investigation into the Statistics New Zealand building and the long-term upgrade requirements in the new Earthquake Prone Buildings Act. It shortens the usual timetable for addressing these high-risk buildings but also provides taxpayer and ratepayer support to help fund half the cost for the urgent work.”

The regulations are to be put in place by the end of February in consultation with the councils and the fund will be administered by MBIE. More information is available at: www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/building-construction/safety-quality/improving-seismic-performance-of-unreinforced-masonry-buildings

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