The government announced yesterday that farm buildings will be except from changes under the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill, which is currently before the Local Government and Environment Committee. The government is concerned that the risks posed by farm buildings do not justify the cost of assessing every building, an estimated $170 million, or an average of $3,000 per farmer. Building and Construction Minister, Dr Nick Smith says buildings such as hay sheds, shearing sheds and milk sheds have a low occupancy rate and that there is no record of a fatality caused by a farm building collapsing in an earthquake.
The Bill passed its first reading on 5 March 2014. In summary, the legislation:
• Maintains the national earthquake-prone building threshold of 33 per cent of new building standard.
• Sets a national timeframe of 20 years for buildings to be strengthened or demolished, by requiring territorial authorities to assess buildings within five years and for work to be completed, or buildings to be demolished, within 15 years of assessment.
• Requires a publicly available national register on the seismic capacity of buildings to be established.
• Prioritises work on certain buildings, including buildings of particular significance in terms of public safety, and buildings that could, if they collapsed in an earthquake, impede a transport route of strategic importance in an emergency.
• Enables local councils to issue building consents for required work on earthquake-prone buildings without requiring other upgrades in certain circumstances.
The Bill currently excludes residential buildings except those that are multi-storey and contain more than two homes. Owners of Category 1 historic places may also apply for an extension of up to 10 years and owners of other buildings will also be able to apply for exemptions from the national timeframe for strengthening where the effects of failure are likely to be minimal.
Dr Smith says officials are also working on other areas of low-risk buildings which should be exempted.