The owners of unreinforced masonry buildings in the Ōpōtiki town centre will be receiving letters in the coming weeks letting them know that their buildings are considered potentially earthquake-prone 'priority buildings' and they are required to obtain a structural engineering assessment.
Ōpōtiki District Council discussed the national legislation on Tuesday 12 November 2019. Council noted the key thoroughfares in the Ōpōtiki township that were considered to have sufficient foot or vehicle traffic and unreinforced masonry buildings that could fall and risk injury or death in an earthquake.
Now that these key thoroughfares have been formally adopted, unreinforced masonry buildings in these areas are considered 'priority' buildings under the national legislation. They need to be assessed by a qualified structural engineer within the next year and any strengthening works identified in that report will need to be carried out within seven and a half years.
Council's Planning and Regulatory Group Manager, Gerard McCormack said that Council's role is defined by the legislation and would be ensuring that the legal requirements are met.
"Most building owners have known this is coming for quite a few years so I don't think it will come as a surprise. From here, the ball is in building owner's court to start to take some action – get a structural engineer to assess their building, keep council in the loop so we know it's been done, and get strengthening works if they are needed.
"The deadlines set out in the legislation start kicking in quite seriously, so if building owners are in any doubt at all, they should come and talk to us to make sure they are on track.
"At the moment, we are focussed on priority buildings but other building owners aren't off the hook and would absolutely benefit from starting their own investigations now. If you are a commercial building owner in the Ōpōtiki district, I encourage you to get up to speed on the legislation and check what it means for you and your building. A good place to start is the Earthquake-prone buildings page on our website or MBIE [the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] has some great resources like videos and definitions to help people understand the legislation.
Mr McCormack said that safety was at the core of the earthquake-prone building legislation but that there would be wider benefits for the community as buildings are brought up to standard.
"We have been speaking to a lot of tenants and a few building owners recently as part of our project to improve the town centre, get up to speed with the earthquake legislation and things like the business breakfasts. And the clear feedback that we have been getting is that the town's appearance is tired. It certainly sounds like things aren't easy for some tenants and renters in CBD buildings – some buildings haven't been well-maintained or the facilities are poor and run down.
"We'd like to see this earthquake legislation as an opportunity to get building owners improving things on the inside and out – improve our town centre and make it a place we all want to spend more time in." Mr McCormack said.
- A Church Street from Richard Street to Kelly Street
- B King Street from Potts Avenue to St John Street
- C Elliott Street from Potts Avenue to St John Street ending at the roundabout
- D Kelly Street from Potts Avenue to the Kelly Street cemetery