The National Earthquake-prone Buildings System – it’s the law
Following the 2010/11 earthquake events in Canterbury a national system for identifying, assessing and managing earthquake-prone buildings came into effect on 1 July 2017.
Under the national system councils throughout New Zealand are required to identify earthquake-prone buildings in their council boundary area. The owner of the building must then have an engineering assessment undertaken. If the building is found to be earthquake-prone the building must be brought up to earthquake-strengthening standards.
What does earthquake-prone mean?
Buildings, or parts of a building, are regarded as earthquake-prone if they are assessed as being less than one-third of the strength required for a new build in the same location in moderate earthquake shaking.
Is my home included in this system?
Buildings that are used mainly for residential purposes are not covered by the system, unless they are more than one-storey in height or are comprised of three or more household units.
The Hauraki District – risk and timeframes
The system categorised New Zealand into three seismic risk areas: high, medium and low. The Hauraki District is categorised as a medium seismic risk area.
Owners of potentially earthquake-prone buildings received a letter from us in June 2022, requesting an engineering assessment be undertaken. If the building is determined to be earthquake-prone, a notice to fix will be issued by us and the building placed on the national earthquake-prone building register. The building must then be strengthened or demolished within 12.5 years for priority buildings and within 25 years for other buildings.
What’s a priority building?
Priority earthquake-prone buildings present a higher risk to life or other property because of their construction, type, use or location. In medium and high seismic risk areas (like our district), priority buildings include hospital and emergency services buildings, and early childhood education centres, schools and registered training establishments regularly occupied by 20 people or more.
Priority buildings also include any part of an unreinforced masonry building located on a ‘busy thoroughfare’. Unreinforced masonry buildings have masonry walls that do not contain steel, timber or fibre reinforcement. They often have parapets, verandas, balconies and chimneys and can collapse in a moderate earthquake. The earthquakes in Christchurch showed us these buildings pose a greater risk than other buildings during an earthquake.
In the Hauraki district Belmont Road, Normanby Road, Mackay Street and Wharf Street in Paeroa, and Seddon Street and Rosemont Road in Waihi have been classified as busy thoroughfares. Please refer to the maps below.
Potential earthquake-prone buildings – next steps
If a building owner gets a notification from us that their building is potentially earthquake-prone they need to:
- Provide an engineering assessment within 12 months, or provide other information to us if they suspect the building has been identified as potentially earthquake-prone in error.
- Notify us that they do not wish to obtain a report. If this happens, we will determine the building to be earthquake-prone with the lowest rating and will obtain an engineering assessment. The costs will be recovered from the building owner.
Building owners may be able to apply for one extension of up to 12 months.
Earthquake-prone buildings – next steps
An earthquake-prone building rating does not mean the building is unsafe or cannot be used, it means it will not perform as well as a new building in a moderate earthquake.
Once an engineering report has determined a building is earthquake-prone, the owner must:
- Display the earthquake-prone building notice issued by us in a prominent place on or adjacent to the building.
- Carry out seismic work on the earthquake-prone building within the specified timeframe, so that it is no longer earthquake-prone.
Information about the building will also be entered in the national register of earthquake-prone buildings.
Buildings that are a Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand Heritage List, or included on the National Historic Landmarks list may be eligible to apply for an extension of up to 10 years to strengthen the building.
More information about what to do if you own an earthquake prone building can be found on the Building Performance website