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Earthquake prone buildings

Tauranga’s Earthquake Prone Building Policy was adopted in March 2006. It focuses on buildings that were built before 1976 that have 33% or less of the strength current building code standards.

On 1 July 2017 a nationally consistent system for managing earthquake-prone buildings came into effect. It changes the way earthquake-prone buildings are identified, assessed and managed.

The primary objective of the new system is to protect people from harm. It categorises New Zealand into three seismic risk areas and uses these areas to set time frames for identifying, strengthening or removing earthquake-prone buildings. (Bay of Plenty is a Medium Risk Zone)

It introduces a new category of ‘priority’ buildings in high and medium seismic risk areas that are considered higher risk because of their construction, type, use or location. Priority buildings must be identified and strengthened or removed in half the time available for other buildings in the same seismic risk area.

The system applies to non-residential buildings and larger residential buildings that are two storeys or more, have three or more household units or are used as a hostel, boarding house or other form of specialised accommodation.

Under the new system, territorial authorities (councils) are responsible for identifying potentially earthquake-prone buildings and notifying building owners, determining if a building is earthquake prone and if so assigning a rating (based on an engineering assessment) and issuing EPB notices to building owners.

Territorial authorities will also have to publish information on buildings they have determined to be earthquake-prone in a national online register hosted by MBIE. The register is a public document.

MBIE will be working with territorial authorities and building professionals over the coming months to help them with the transition to the new system and providing information for building owners.

Managing earthquake-prone buildings has an overview of the new system.

Earthquake-prone building resources has links to the relevant Acts, regulations, engineering assessment guidelines and the EPB methodology. The methodology and The Seismic Assessment of Existing Buildings: Technical Guidelines for Engineering Assessments are key tools to help territorial authorities and engineers identify, assess and make decisions on potentially earthquake-prone buildings.

The Register of earthquake-prone buildings (EPB Register) has a public portal as well as a logon for territorial authorities entering data.

  • a building’s importance, e.g. whether it has a post-disaster function or has a high occupancy
  • its age and condition relative to the code to which it was built or previously strengthened

Buying or selling an earthquake-prone building

The new owner becomes responsible for the seismic strengthening. It’s recommended that purchasers carry out independent investigations prior to purchasing a property that is likely to be earthquake-prone.

If you need to find out whether a building is earthquake-prone you can approach an engineer to undertake an independent Initial Seismic Assessment (ISA) at your own cost. This will give you a guide as to the strength of the building. We maintain the right to review these findings.

Alterations to an earthquake-prone buildings

If we receive a building consent application for upgrading or alteration of a building which is confirmed as being earthquake-prone, the building will need to be strengthened to comply as nearly as is reasonably practicable with the current Building Code.

If you are changing the use of the building, we must be satisfied with the structural and seismic performance of a building when considering the intended change of use. If we are not satisfied the building will need to be strengthened to comply as nearly as is reasonably practicable with the current Building Code.

Section 133AT on alterations to earthquake prone buildings comes into effect 13 May 2018.

Disagreeing with earthquake-prone classification

If you disagree with our classification of your building as earthquake-prone, you can provide an engineer’s report in challenge of that decision. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will then make a final, binding determination on whether your building is earthquake-prone. 

The policy affects all types of commercial or public buildings, and residential properties that have two or more stories and contain three or more household units. Buildings that are mainly used for residential purposes are not affected by the policy. Buildings built after 1976 are unlikely to be earthquake prone.

Earthquake-prone buildings register

The buildings on the Ministry register have been confirmed as earthquake-prone. The online register is updated regularly to reflect any strengthening works undertaken by building owners or any buildings newly classified as earthquake-prone.

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