Owners of earthquake-prone buildings can apply for exemptions

Owners of an earthquake-prone building or part of a building can apply to their territorial authority for an exemption from completing seismic work. Territorial authorities must grant an exemption if they are satisfied the building has all the required characteristics, which are set in regulations.

Focus on buildings with low consequences of failure

Exemptions recognise that, in some cases, even though a building or part of a building is earthquake prone the consequences of its failure are likely to be low. The focus is on buildings which:

  • have limited use
  • have low foot and vehicle traffic around them
  • are not expected to be needed in an emergency, and
  • where the impact if they collapsed is also likely to be low (in terms of life safety or damage to other property).

Priority buildings are unlikely to have the required characteristics for an exemption.

Key point: Remember that exemptions can only be granted to buildings or parts of buildings already determined to be earthquake prone.

Few buildings are likely to qualify for exemptions

Territorial authorities should only grant exemptions from completing the necessary seismic work if there is a low consequence associated with the building’s failure in terms of life safety and property damage. 

The types of building expected to be eligible for an exemption are likely to be those located well away from other buildings or passers-by, eg some small rural community halls or churches. 

Allowing exemptions recognises that, in some cases, the cost of seismic strengthening may be disproportionately high compared to the consequences of building failure. The regulations also provide some flexibility for different scenarios of building use (ie different combinations of the number of people expected to be at or near the earthquake-prone building or part, and how often and how long they stay for). 

However, in practice, only a small proportion of earthquake-prone buildings (EPBs) are likely to qualify for an exemption. This is because the Building Act limits the scope of the EPB provisions to start with by excluding various buildings with low consequences of failure, such as farm buildings. Further, in determining a building or part to be earthquake prone the territorial authority has already decided that it is likely to cause at least some injury to people inside or near it, or damage to other property, if it collapsed (under section 133AB (1)(b) of the Building Act). 

Snapshot of the process for considering exemptions

An EPB must have all the required characteristics to be eligible for an exemption. The figure below summarises these and gives a snapshot of the process.

Click the image to enlarge.

Exemptions from seismic work: Snapshot of the process

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This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: