help with PDF files

Find out more »

Managing earthquake-prone buildings

Changes to earthquake-prone buildings policy

In May 2015, the government announced that it had revised its policy on earthquake-prone buildings in favour of a more targeted approach that focuses on the buildings that pose the greatest risk to life.  It ensures the response is proportionate to the risk, that the costs are minimised and that we retain as much of our built heritage as possible.

The main changes include:

  • Varying  the timeframes for identifying and strengthening earthquake-prone buildings according to the seismic risk around New Zealand (with timeframes for identifying potentially earthquake-prone buildings of five, 10 and 15 years, and timeframes for strengthening earthquake-prone buildings of 15, 25 and 35 years – timeframes dependant on the seismic risk of the area)
  • Reducing the scope of buildings covered by the system – excluding farm buildings, retaining walls, fences, monuments that cannot be entered (e.g. statues), wharves, bridges, tunnels and storage tanks
  • Prioritising education buildings, emergency service facilities, hospital buildings and corridor buildings by requiring that in high and medium seismic risk areas they be identified and strengthened in half the standard time
  • Introducing new measures to encourage earlier upgrades through a new requirement to strengthen earthquake-prone buildings when substantial alterations are undertaken
  • A more focused Earthquake-prone Buildings Register and enhanced public notices on earthquake-prone buildings that give information about the earthquake rating of the building.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill is currently being considered by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee.

More information

  1. Ministers press release[External link]
  2. Ministers speech[External link]
  3. Cabinet paper* »
  4. Cabinet minute* »
  5. Regulatory Impact Statement* »
  6. Read more information on the Bill on the select committee website[External link]

* redactions have been made consistent with the principles of the Official Information Act 1982.

Also on this page:

Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill

The Government has introduced legislation into Parliament 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 and 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.

More information

Back to top

Key decisions in 2013

  • 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.

Once 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.

More information

Back to top

Consultation process and submissions received

The Government consulted on its proposals to change the system. The consultation document, ‘Building Seismic Performance’, outlining proposals to improve the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings, was released on 7 December 2012, with a closing date for submissions of 8 March 2013.

The consultation proposals arose from the Royal Commission’s recommendations and MBIE’s review.

Public meetings were held in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Palmerston North, and Napier in February 2013 to support the consultation process.

535 submissions were received from individuals and groups including: building owners, engineers, local government, architects, insurers and disability and heritage advocates.

Pie Chart 1.

Pie Chart 2

What submitters said

Most of the proposals were supported by submitters and are included in the Government’s proposals for legislative change. Some changes were made to the Government’s original proposals as a result of feedback from the consultation.

Read the Full report on the consultation process, Building Seismic Performance [PDF 671 KB, 133 pages]

Back to top