Designated areas for building emergency management

Last updated: 20 February 2024

A designation under the Building Act provides an end-to-end process for managing buildings during and after an emergency.

What is a designation?

The Building Act provides a system and powers for managing buildings that are in an area that has been affected by an emergency. These powers are set out in Subpart 6B of the Building Act and allow for the designation of an area for building emergency management.

A designated area is an area approved by the relevant decision maker. It allows a responsible person (usually the territorial authority) to take specific actions under the Building Act to manage buildings in an emergency. The provisions allow a territorial authority to manage the process from response through to recovery. They also provide certainty to building owners and occupiers about how the safety of their buildings will be managed.

A designation can be in place at the same time as a state of emergency or transition period. Or it can be a standalone measure.

A designated area must be a defined area. It must be in the public interest, as well as being necessary or desirable for the protection of one or more of the following:

  • people, from injury or death
  • buildings, from damage or disruption to their use
  • public thoroughfares, from disruption
  • critical infrastructure, from damage or disruption to its operation or use
  • people or buildings, from the effects of insanitary conditions in the relevant area.

Powers available in a designated area

In a designated area, the building emergency management functions of the Building Act take precedence over the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act powers. There are some exceptions to this. For example, when it is necessary or desirable to use a power under the CDEM Act to remove or reduce risks posed by a building that cannot be removed or reduced by exercising a power under the Building Act.

Designating an area provides the responsible person with certain powers to:

  • enter buildings or land
  • direct the evacuation of buildings
  • put in place measures for protecting buildings and keeping people at a safe distance
  • place notices and signs on buildings
  • carry out post-event assessments (rapid building assessments)
  • require the owner of a building to provide information
  • carry out urgent works to remove or reduce risks
  • require or carry out works to remove or reduce other risks
  • require works for long-term use or occupation of a building.

These powers are limited to building management activity within the designated area. When these powers are used, the responsible person must be guided by some key principles. These are set out in the factsheet below.

Designating an area for building management (factsheet) [PDF 338KB]

Reasons to use the designation powers

There are several reasons for using the designation powers under the Building Act.

Long-term management of buildings

Unless extended or terminated, states of local emergency and transition periods only last for short periods of time. When states of emergency or transition periods end, protective measures, such as notices (placards) that prohibit access, lose legal force. Designating an area means that Building Act powers, including placards can be used after a state of emergency or transition period ends.

Risks because of damage to surrounding buildings or land

The powers also account for situations where there is damage to surrounding buildings or land that pose a risk to life safety or of damage to other property. These powers allow for access to be restricted to buildings where there is a risk, for example a rock fall or slip.

Dangerous buildings

Many buildings damaged in an emergency event will not meet the high threshold to be a 'dangerous building' under the Building Act, so the powers available in relation to dangerous and insanitary buildings will not be available.

These buildings do need to be managed for life safety purposes, and the powers under s133BQ-133BX of the Building Act allow for this.

Territorial authorities should not use the dangerous buildings powers of the Building Act when an area is under a designation. The designation guidance provides details on what business as usual powers are affected while an area is designated, and what powers a territorial authority can use in a designated area.

Designating an area for building management (guidance) [PDF 1.7MB]

Designating an area

Who can designate an area depends on whether an area is subject to a state of emergency or transition period under the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002.

If the area that is under a state of emergency or transition period, a designation can be made by a relevant Civil Defence Emergency Management decision maker.

This means either the Minister for Emergency Management or a person appointed or otherwise authorised under section 25 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act to declare a state of local emergency or give notice of a local transition period for the area (usually either the mayor or another decision maker who is appointed under these powers).

If a state of emergency or transition period is not in place, an area can be designated by the:

  • Minister for Building and Construction
  • territorial authority for the relevant area, with prior approval of the Minister for Building and Construction.

When the territorial authority is required to seek the Minister's approval to designate an area they need to follow an approval process with MBIE. To do this the territorial authority must complete a designation form, provide a map of the designated area and email it to buildingemergencymanagement@mbie.govt.nz

Once this request is made MBIE will facilitate the approval of and report to the Minister for Building and Construction about the designation for the territorial authority.

Request to designate an area for emergency management – form (PDF 371KB)

Request to extend the designation of an area for emergency management – form (PDF 556KB)

Request to terminate the designation of an area for emergency management – form (PDF 344KB)

A designation decision, including an extension or termination must be publicly notified.

How long does a designation last for?

A designation remains in force for three years unless extended or terminated earlier. A designation of area can only be extended once for up to three years.

The relevant territorial authority is required to review the designation every 90 days. They need to decide whether the designation is still needed, having regard to s133BD(1) and (2) of the Building Act. A designation of area should remain in place until it is no longer in the public interest. It can be terminated for a specific part of the designated area, or the whole area.

90-day Review of a designation - form [PDF 283KB]

The responsible person must let MBIE know of the outcomes of their reviews. This is to be done by emailing the completed form to buildingemergencymanagement@mbie.govt.nz

The outcomes of designation reviews must be notified publicly.

There is further information about how to designate an area, and how to review, extend and terminate a designation in the resources section below.

Current designated areas

There are currently designated areas in the following parts of Aotearoa/New Zealand. If you wish to find out more about these designations, refer to the relevant council or territorial authority website.

Designated area Council Next review date
Buller Buller District 22 February 2024
Gisborne Gisborne District 20 March 2024
Levin Horowhenua District 18 November 2023
Inland, Western and Northern areas of the Nelson Region, Nelson City Council Nelson City Council 9 May 2024
Tasman Tasman District 9 May 2024
The Arapawa, Yncyca, French Pass, Kenepuru/Queen Charlotte areas and four properties in Picton, Waikawa and Ngakuta Bay in the Marlborough Region, Marlborough District Council Marlborough District 11 May 2024
Auckland Region with the exclusion of specific areas – see Designation response to January 2023 storm - aucklandcouncil.govt.nz Auckland Council 26 April 2024
Thames Coromandel Thames-Coromandel 4 May 2024
Whangarei Whangarei District Council 10 May 2024
Kaipara Kaipara District Council 11 May 2024
Waikato Waikato District Council 11 May 2024
Hastings region with exclusion of specific areas. See designation response to cyclone Gabrielle - hastingsdc.govt.nz Hastings District Council 12 May 2024
Napier region with exclusion of specific areas. See designation response to Cyclone Gabrielle - napier.govt.nz Napier City Council 12 May 2024
Wairoa Wairoa District Council 15 February 2024
Central Hawke’s Bay Central Hawke’s Bay District Council 16 February 2024
Tinui and surrounding area Masterton District Council 18 May 2024
Tararua area Tararua District Council 22 February 2024

Resources

Information for territorial authorities on designated areas for building management

Designating an area for building management (factsheet) [PDF 338KB]

Designating an area for building management (guidance) [PDF 1.7MB]

Guide to the designation process – Step by step guide [PDF 693KB]

Information for building owners on designated areas for building management

Information for building owners

Information for building owners on removal or reassessment of rapid building assessment placards – fact sheet

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: