Building seismic performance: proposals to improve the New Zealand earthquake-prone building system

7 Aug 2013

The purpose of this document is to summarise the consultation process undertaken by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) during its review of earthquake-prone building policy.

The document includes a summary of:

  1. the regional public information seminars
  2. submissions in response to:
  • the proposals put forward by the MBIE to review New Zealand’s earthquake-prone building policy system under the Building Act 2004, and
  • recommendations covering earthquake-prone building policy made by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission.


The Government has decided to introduce legislation to change the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings.

The changes follow recommendations by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and a comprehensive review (including consultation) by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE)

Many earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand are not being managed in a consistent, timely and cost effective way. A clear view has emerged that the current system is not achieving an acceptable level of risk in terms of protecting people from serious harm in moderate earthquakes.

The new system is designed to strike a better balance between protecting people from harm in an earthquake and managing the costs of strengthening or removing earthquake prone buildings.

It will give central Government a greater role in providing leadership and direction in relation to earthquake-prone buildings, to make better use of the resources and capability of central and local government.

Key decisions

  • To identify those that are earthquake-prone, territorial authorities will have to complete a seismic assessment of all non-residential buildings and all multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings in their areas within five years of changes to the new legislation taking effect.
  • All earthquake-prone buildings will have to be strengthened, or demolished, within 20 years of the new legislation taking effect (i.e. assessment by territorial authorities within five years and strengthening within 15 years of assessment).
  • A publicly accessible register of earthquake-prone buildings will be set up by MBIE.
  • Certain buildings will be prioritised for assessment and strengthening such as:
    • buildings likely to have a significant impact on public safety,e.g. those with potential falling hazards
    • strategically important buildings,e.g. those on transport routes identified as critical in an emergency.
  • Owners of some buildings will be able to apply for exemptions from the national timeframe for strengthening. These will be buildings where the effects of them failing are likely to be minimal and could include farm buildings with little passing traffic.
  • Owners of earthquake-prone category 1 buildings (listed on the register of historic places under the Historic Places Act 1993) and those on the proposed National Historic Landmarks List, will be able to apply for extensions of up to 10 years to the national timeframe for strengthening.

The Government intends to introduce legislation to amend the Building Act (2004) into Parliament later this year. If the Bill is passed into law, it is likely there will be a transition period before the law takes effect while detailed implementation issues are worked through. MBIE will be working with Territorial authorities and engineers on implementing these changes.

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