Managing earthquake-prone buildings

Last updated: 18 April 2024

Building system reform max penalties timeframes

The national system for managing earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand came into effect in July 2017. This system affects owners of earthquake-prone buildings, territorial authorities (local councils), engineers, other building professionals and building users.

Earthquake-prone building system review

The Government has brought forward a review of the earthquake-prone building system to 2024 to identify improvements in the way Aotearoa/New Zealand manages seismic risk in existing buildings.

The review will commence in 2024 and will focus on how well the current system is managing seismic risk in existing buildings, look to identify issues, and examine the approach taken by other overseas jurisdictions in regions of high seismic risk.

While the review is underway, the Government has agreed to amend the Building Act 2004 to extend all non-lapsed earthquake-prone building remediation deadlines, as at 2 April 2024, by four years, with an option to extend by a further two years if required.

Extensions will apply automatically and councils will re-issue earthquake-prone building notices to all eligible buildings, once the amendments to the Act are made (expected by end of 2024). This will help keep implementation costs low and provide clarity and certainty to owners and councils. 

While eligible building owners will have more time to strengthen or demolish their earthquake-prone building following these changes, all other earthquake-prone building requirements under the Building Act will continue to apply. Once the review is completed, further legislative changes to the Act may be made.

Further information about the review and legislation to extend remediation deadlines will be made available throughout 2024.

Video: Introducing the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings

Watch a short video overview of how the system works.

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Online learning: Earthquake-prone buildings

Check out the earthquake-prone buildings courses on our online learning site.

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System for managing earthquake-prone buildings (EPB)

New Zealand is extremely prone to seismic activity and ensuring the safety of people is paramount. Buildings need to be safe for occupants and users.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 introduced major changes to the way earthquake-prone buildings are identified and managed under the Building Act 2004. It uses knowledge learned from past earthquakes in Aotearoa/New Zealand and overseas.

The system is consistent across the country and focuses on the most vulnerable buildings in terms of people's safety.

It categorises Aotearoa/New Zealand into three seismic risk areas and sets time frames for identifying and taking action to strengthen or remove earthquake-prone buildings.

It provides more information for people using buildings such as nationally consistent EPB notices with ratings for earthquake-prone buildings and a public earthquake-prone buildings register (the EPB register).

General information on building safety in earthquakes has information on building owner responsibilities for keeping their buildings safe in earthquakes.

Post-emergency building assessment has information on managing a building following a major event.

Worksafe's position statement on dealing with earthquake-related hazards is available on the Worksafe website.

What earthquake-prone means

A building, or part of a building, is earthquake prone if it will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake, and if it were to collapse, would do so in a way that is likely to cause injury or death to persons in or near the building or on any other property, or damage to any other property.

Territorial authorities determine if a building or part of a building is earthquake prone using the EPB methodology, this sets out:

  • how territorial authorities identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings
  • how engineers undertake engineering assessments
  • how territorial authorities determine whether a building or part is earthquake prone, and if it is, its earthquake rating.

The methodology to identify earthquake-prone buildings has more information.

The Building Act 2004 is available on the Legislation website.

Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005 is available on the Legislation website.

Why buildings are managed for earthquake risk

Experience from Christchurch and overseas has shown that the failure of earthquake-prone buildings, or parts, can endanger lives. Thirty-nine people lost their lives when unreinforced masonry buildings failed during the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. Earthquake risk reduction is a priority in New Zealand.

New Zealand has had a progressive approach to improving standards for new buildings and earthquake-resistant design since design standards for buildings were first introduced into New Zealand in 1935, following the Napier earthquake.

Advancements in the knowledge of seismicity, material properties and the response of buildings in earthquake shaking has resulted in progressive refinements to requirements for the design and detail of buildings.

The earthquake-prone building (EPB) system provides leadership and direction on how to manage the risks to public safety posed by existing buildings, including those constructed prior to the introduction of certain design standards.

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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: