Last updated: 1 September 2023
When an emergency strikes an area and a building or buildings may be damaged, a designation under the Building Act provides an end-to-end process for managing buildings during and after the emergency.
What is a designation?
The Building Act provides a system and powers for managing buildings after 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 following an emergency event. Once a designated area is in place, the Building Act provides several special powers that may be exercised in respect of all buildings within the designated area. These provide additional ways to manage risks to life and property from damaged buildings and land.
These powers can be activated by a person authorised by the regional Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, by designating an area for building emergency management. If no state of emergency or transition period is in force, the relevant territorial authority needs the Minister for Building and Construction's approval to designate an area – in this situation MBIE prepare a briefing to the Minister for her approval. The Minister for Building and Construction can also designate an area on their own initiative if there is no state of emergency/transition period in force.
The designated area must be a defined area and the designation 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
Once an area has been designated, all building emergency management functions of the Building Act take precedence over the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act powers. There are exceptions, such as when it is necessary or desirable to exercise a power under the CDEM Act to remove or reduce risks posed by the building that cannot be removed or reduced by exercising a power under any sections of the Building Act.
Designating an area provides the responsible person with certain powers to:
- Enter to a building or land for evacuation, or to put in place:
- measures to keep people at a safe distance and protect buildings
- placement of notices and signage on buildings
- works (urgent and non-urgent) to remove or reduce risks
- works for long-term use of the building
- 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 confined to building management activity within the designated area. When these powers are used, the responsible person must be guided by some key principles, which are set out in the factsheet below.
Reasons to use the Designation powers
There are several reasons for using the designation powers under the Building Act. A local state of emergency only lasts for seven days unless extended or terminated and a transition period for up to 28 days unless extended or terminated. Therefore, protective measures undertaken during states of emergency or transition periods, such as notices (placards) that prohibit access, lose legal force when a state of emergency or transition period ends.
Sometimes long-term management of buildings is required after an event, and the Building Act provides a flexible system and additional tools to allow Territorial Authorities to do this. Under a designation the workflow from issuing placards during the rapid building assessment phase to compliance notices and enforcement can occur seamlessly, without transitioning to alternative measures under the Building Act.
In addition, the powers in the Building Act to manage dangerous and insanitary buildings are not designed to manage damaged buildings after an emergency event. 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 2004 allow for this.
It is important to be aware that Territorial Authorities should not use the dangerous buildings powers of the Building Act when an area is under a designation. Notices issued under section 124 of the Building Act in relation to buildings under a designation, cannot be issued while the designation is in force.
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 Act 2002.
Within an area that is subject to a state of emergency or transition period under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, 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 (as the case may be) for the area (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 BuildingActEmergencyManagement@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.
How long does the 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 to decide whether the designation is still needed, having regard to the matters in s133BD(1) and (2) of the Building Act. A designation of area should remain in place until the designation is no longer in the public interest and can be terminated for a specific part of the designated area, or the whole area.
The responsible person can let MBIE know of and the outcomes of their reviews by emailing information to BuildingActEmergencyManagement@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 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|
|Westport||Buller District||Saturday 7 October 2023|
|Mahakipawa||Marlborough District||Tuesday 17 October 2023|
|Buller||Buller District||Friday 24 November 2023|
|Gisborne||Gisborne District||Friday 22 September 2023|
|Levin||Horowhenua District||Sunday 20 August 2023|
|Inland, Western and Northern areas of the Nelson Region, Nelson City Council||Nelson City Council||Saturday 11 November 2023|
|Tasman||Tasman District||Saturday 11 November 2023|
|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||Tuesday 15 August 2023|
|Auckland Region with the exclusion of specific areas – see Designation response to January 2023 storm - aucklandcouncil.govt.nz||Auckland Council||Sunday 29 October 2023|
|Thames Coromandel||Thames-Coromandel||Monday 6 November 2023|
|Whangarei||Whangarei District Council||Sunday 12 November 2023|
|Kaipara||Kaipara District Council||Monday 13 November 2023|
|Waikato||Waikato District Council||Tuesday 15 August 2023|
|Hastings region with exclusion of specific areas. See designation response to cyclone Gabrielle - hastingsdc.govt.nz||Hastings District Council||Tuesday 14 November 2023|
|Napier region with exclusion of specific areas. See designation response to Cyclone Gabrielle - napier.govt.nz||Napier City Council||Tuesday 14 November 2023|
|Wairoa||Wairoa District Council||Friday 17 November 2023|
|Central Hawke’s Bay||Central Hawke’s Bay District Council||Sunday 20 August 2023|
|Tinui and surrounding area||Masterton District Council||Tuesday 22 August 2023|
|Tararua area||Tararua District Council||Friday 24 November 2023|