Recently there have been major changes to the current system for identifying and remediating earthquake-prone buildings (EPBs) under the Building Act 2004. Refer to government guidance:
- General information on building safety in earthquakes
- Securing unreinforced masonry building parapets and facades
- Managing earthquake-prone buildings
- Post emergency building assessment
- Video introducing the national system for managing earthquake-prone buildings
NOTE: MBIE’s New Online Learning Site is now available with courses on earthquake-prone buildings.
Definition of an earthquake-prone building
The focus is mainly on commercial and public buildings, priority buildings (e.g. hospitals) and multiple units, multi-storey residential buildings, but not detached dwellings or farm buildings. Section 133AB of Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 provides a new definition of earthquake-prone building:
(1) A building or a part of a building is earthquake-prone if, having regard to the condition of the building or part and to the ground on which the building is built, and because of the construction of the building or part,-
(a) the building or part will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake; and
(b) if the building or part were to collapse, the collapse would be likely to cause –
(i) injury or death to persons in or near the building or on any other property; or
(ii) damage to any other property.
(2) Whether a building or a part of a building is earthquake prone is determined by the territorial authority in whose district the building is situated
Definition of a moderate earthquake
A moderate earthquake is defined in section 7 of the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005:
moderate earthquake means, in relation to a building, an earthquake that would generate shaking at the site of the building that is of the same duration as, but that is one-third as strong as, the earthquake shaking (determined by normal measures of acceleration, velocity, and displacement) that would be used to design a new building at that site.
Buying a building that may be earthquake-prone
As when buying any property, you should arrange for checks or surveys by a professional and independent person or organisation. This will help you understand the implications before proceeding with the purchase. This information may also be available in a Land Information Memorandum (LIM).
Alterations to buildings subject to EPB notice
Dealing with earthquake-related hazards
WorkSafe NZ is New Zealand’s workplace health and safety regulator. Their Position Statement for employers and owners of workplace buildings (buildings that are workplaces or contain workplaces) covers:
- Employer/owner legal obligations under the Building Act 2004 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and the consequences of not complying with legislative requirements.
- Identification and management of hazards and planning for emergencies through appropriate processes, plans, and practice drills.
- Identification and management of risks associated with attached building components such as verandas, ceilings, glass.
- Identification and management of risks associated with chattels and equipment.
- Preparing for emergencies.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) who administer the Building Act 2004 have also posted the following guidance for building owners:
- Building safety advice in earthquakes: This covers prioritizing building assessment, assessing risk, and taking action if the building’s use changes or the building is earthquake-prone
- Post emergency building assessment – guidance, field guides and assessment tools
Assessment and Seismic Work
Role of territorial authority (Council)
If the territorial authority district includes any area of medium or high seismic risk, the territorial authority must
- Set up a consultation to identify priority buildings or parts of buildings (prioritising parts of unreinforced masonry buildings) that are potentially earthquake-prone and public thoroughfares (e.g. transport routes, roads, paths, other) with sufficient vehicle or pedestrian traffic to warrant prioritising the identification and remediation of those parts of unreinforced masonry buildings. See Section 133AF.
- Identify, within the statutory timeframes, any potentially earthquake-prone buildings using the EPB methodology as required under section 133AG.
- Request owners provided by the due date, an engineering assessment of potentially earthquake-prone buildings. The request must meet statutory requirements set out under section 133 AH.
- Promptly address any applications for extensions of time meeting the requirements of section 133 AJ (3).
- Determine whether or not the building or part is earthquake prone following the requirements set out in section 133AK.
- If the building or part is earthquake prone, then issue an EPB notice according to section 133AL.
If a territorial authority determines that a building or a part of a building in its district is earthquake prone, the territorial authority may do any or all of the following (see sections 133AQ, 133AR and 133AS:
- Assess information relating the earthquake-prone building at any time.
- Put up a hoarding or fence to prevent people from approaching the building or part nearer than is safe.
- Attach in a prominent place, on or adjacent to the building or part, a notice that warns people not to approach the building or part:
- Issue a notice that complies with subsection (2) restricting entry to the building or part for particular purposes or restricting entry to particular persons or groups of persons.
NOTE: If a territorial authority has put up a hoarding or fence or attached a notice that prevents or warns people not to approach the building or part; or restricts entry, then no person may, other than in accordance with the terms of a notice use or occupy the building or part; or permit another person to use or occupy the building or part.
- Apply to the District Court for an Order of Authority to carry out the seismic work authorised which may include the demolition of the building or part. The cost of this work may be recovered from the owner and becomes a charge on the land.
Obligations of owners
The owner must
- Provide an engineering assessment of the building or part by the due date (or extension date). The assessment must follow the EPB methodology requirements. OR
- Provide evidence of a factual error in the basis on which the territorial authority has identified the building or part as potentially earthquake-prone; OR
- Notify the territorial authority that the owner does not intend to provide an engineering assessment.
- Apply for an extension of time to provide the engineering assessment if they are unable to provide an engineering assessment by the due date (for example, because of a shortage of people qualified to conduct engineering assessments). The extension of time must be applied for no later than 2 months before the due date.
NOTE: the extension of time can be for no more than up to 12 months from the due date.
- NOTE: If an owner fails to provide an engineering assessment, or provide evidence of a factual error, then the territorial authority must,
- Proceed as if it had determined the building or part to be earthquake-prone; AND
- Issue an EPB notice for the building or part; AND
- May obtain an engineering assessment, at the owner’s cost.
Current Council Policies
- Hamilton – Earthquake-Prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Building Policy
- Hauraki – Dangerous, Earthquake-Prone and Insanitary Building Policy
- Matamata-Piako – Earthquake-Prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Building Policy
- Otorohanga – Contact the district council and ask about the EPB policy
- Thames-Coromandel District Council – Contact the district council and ask about the EPB policy
- Waikato – Contact the district council and ask about the EPB policy
- Waipa – Dangerous, Affected and Insanitary Buildings Policy
- Waitomo – Earthquake-Prone Building Policy
Last updated 2018-09-13