Source: NZ Herald online – 09 August 2014
The Government is now rethinking the Earthquake-prone Buildings Amendment Bill after strong criticism at the number of heritage buildings that would be lost.
Engineering experts rubbished the Government’s original billion-dollar earthquake upgrade plans, which affect about one in 10 commercial and multi-storey apartment buildings, as unnecessary and unworkable.
The country’s leading engineering body, the Institution of Professional Engineers, warned a select committee considering the bill that the new regime was likely to cause the destruction of value in many older buildings, which would be unjustifiably listed as earthquake-prone.
Around 200,000 buildings throughout the country are due to be checked for structural weaknesses in the next five years, with up to 25,000 expected to need expensive strengthening work under the Bill.
Critics say it is a huge overreaction to the Christchurch earthquakes and will impose excessive costs on property owners, force the unnecessary closure of many old buildings in areas of low earthquake risk and possibly cost as much as $10 billion.
The legislation has already had a chilling effect on the property market. Landlords and real estate agents have warned that tenants have fled heritage buildings, which have plunged in value. Many owners cannot afford to fix their buildings but are not allowed to demolish them because of heritage concerns.
As well as commercial buildings, the bill will affect heritage apartments, 224 schools and many hundreds of churches.