Cost higher than risk?

Proposals for changes to the system for dealing with earthquake-prone buildings have caused consternation among councils.

The proposals set out a consistent national approach to dealing with these buildings.

Essentially the proposals would require all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings to have a seismic capacity assessment done within five years. Owners of buildings identified as earthquake-prone would then have up to 10 years to strengthen or demolish these buildings. . .

That might have looked feasible on a drawing board in Wellington but it’s not regarded as affordable or necessary by provincial councils.

The Government’s proposals to deal with earthquake-prone buildings place too much emphasis on the earthquake risk, at substantial cost, in comparison to other risks (both natural and other) that individuals and local communities face, the Dunedin City Council says. . .

The consultation document contains proposals to improve the earthquake-prone building system, in response to the recommendations of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission.

The proposals include substantial changes to local systems that could cost $1.8 billion in the southern South Island, according to an assessment commissioned by local councils.

They include a much greater role for local authorities in assessing buildings and much shorter time frames for either upgrading or demolishing earthquake-prone buildings. . .

The plan has also met with outrage from some civic leaders and landlords.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams and Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, who is also president of Local Government NZ, have spoken out against the proposals, saying provincial towns and rural communities would be financially ruined.

Timaru Mayor Janie Annear has described the proposals as devastating. . . .

Waimate mayor John Coles says if the proposals are implemented his town’s main street could be flattened.

. . . “Already some organisations, such as churches, have chosen to vacate their buildings because of assessments showing the building’s strength is well under the current level,” he said.

“It is my fear that organisations and businesses forced to find alternative buildings because of their own policies may not find suitable accommodation and have to leave town.” . . .

The Waitaki District Council describes the proposals as ‘‘inflexible, unworkable and unaffordable”.

It has been estimated it will cost the council $2.5 million – 2% of total rates it collects – to assess at-risk buildings and the community or building owners $178 million to upgrade them.

Those details will be included in a submission the council will make on the Government’s proposed changes to earthquake prone buildings, a draft of which was outlined to councillors earlier this week.

The submission makes it clear the changes, as proposed, will place a heavy level of compliance and cost on the council and community.

Overall, the council wants to see greater flexibility, rather than a ”one size fits all” approach, with the community able to decide what level of risk is acceptable.

While agreeing improvements can be made in the light of what happened in the Christchurch earthquakes, the council has concerns with many of the proposals and timeframes, which may prove unaffordable for the Waitaki community.

It says too much emphasis is being placed on the earthquake risk, at a substantial cost, in comparison to other risks communities faced.

Ultimately, the solutions must be risk-based, workable and affordable for both New Zealand and local communities. . .

The Christchurch earthquakes have changed the way we regard earthquake risk and the government has to address issues raised by the Royal Commission.

However, risk and cost must be balanced, especially in smaller, less populated areas.

The proposals are only proposals and are open for submissions until tomorrow.

One Response to Cost higher than risk?

  1. TraceyS says:

    How do you assess risk when we have no idea what that risk is? http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/243567/big-unknown-where-dunedin-quake-cycle

    The cost can be measured (reasonably accurately) but the risk cannot. So they each need a different set of scales when it comes to balancing.

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