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
The number of new homes consented in Auckland for the year to November has topped 10,000 for the first time in 12 years, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The 1156 consents issued in Auckland during November makes it the strongest month in more than 10 years. It is more than treble the 325 consents issued in Auckland in November 2008, when National became Government. We need to consistently achieve more than 1000 consents per month in Auckland to match population growth,” Dr Smith says.
“It’s great to see such strong growth in our area of greatest need but this isn’t just an Auckland story; 30,303 consents were issued nationally for the year to November 2016 – up 13 per cent on the previous November year and the second consecutive month where we’ve topped 30,000.
“The value of residential construction nationally increased 23 per cent for the year to $12.45 billion, and all construction increased 15 per cent to $19 billion. In Auckland, residential construction is at $4.8 billion, up 32 per cent, and all construction is worth $7.2 billion, up 30 per cent.
“This is the fifth straight year of strong growth in construction, with growth averaging more than 20 per cent per annum. This is as fast as you can practically grow a sector as large and as complex as construction without compromising quality,” Dr Smith says.
“This ongoing strong growth shows the Government’s programme to increase housing supply is working. We have aggressively increased land supply with Special Housing Areas in the short-term, changes to Auckland’s planning in the medium term, and the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity and Resource Management Act reforms in the long term.
“We have complemented this with the Crown Land Programme and a record level of direct Government projects to build homes, such as Hobsonville. We’ve also provided record levels of assistance for first-home buyers with the KiwiSaver HomeStart scheme, which has helped more than 20,000 people into their first home with about $500 million in KiwiSaver withdrawals for a deposit.
“This Government is step by step, development by development, getting on and addressing New Zealand’s housing challenges.”
Labour Leader Andrew Little's idea for a law change to give Solid Energy a legal exemption to any liabilities that might arise out of a re-entry to the mine is hypocritical and unsafe, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said today.
“It would be extraordinary to make an exemption from the Health and Safety at Work Act from the very place where 29 workers lost their lives from inadequate standards that triggered the new law. This is a bid by Mr Little to outplay Winston Peters politically rather than a principled stand about the importance of a consistent approach to workplace safety,” Dr Smith says.
“The Government’s position is that the mine should only be re-entered if it can be done safely and complies with New Zealand’s updated workplace safety laws. We do a disservice to the memory of the 29 miners who lost their lives by not learning the lessons of the tragedy that you cannot play fast and loose with underground safety of methane rich coalmines.
“Based on the advice I have received, I remain very doubtful of claims that the mine can be safely re-entered. The mine has 100,000 cubic meters of methane and is likely to have residual heat sources capable of triggering an explosion if there was a source of oxygen. There is the added risk of rock falls from unstable strata fractured by the 2010 explosions.
“The fundamental flaw of the mine having only one egress route remains. The Government has already spent more than $5 million trying to find a safe re-entry method. Over 600 pages of reports commissioned by Solid Energy analysed the risks and concluded it could not be done safely. There is a significant difference between someone saying re-entry might be possible compared with company directors taking legal responsibility.
“Exempting the Pike Mine re-entry project from New Zealand’s workplace safety laws would set a dangerous precedent. Labour argued these laws were not tough enough and is now being hypocritical in wanting, for political purposes, to exempt the Pike Mine re-entry project. Either the mine can be safely entered under existing law, or it should not occur.”