Earthquake report

Attached is a summary of the Royal Commission’s recommendations on how to deal with earthquake prone buildings.  The report is factual, sensible and easy to read. However there is one large problem.

The recommendations will be impossible to implement. The cost to property owners is unaffordable — hence, I predict, the recommendations will go largely unheeded … becoming instead a “wish list” for future generations to worry about.

It’s a shame that more practicable solutions  weren’t  suggested as well, of which there are many.

For instance, to have one code for all of New Zealand flies in the face of reality.

Is this code going to apply to the Chatham Islands?
Can you really compare Auckland with Wellington?

Does a percentage of strength in a building mean anything especially when you consider that the building that caused the most deaths in Christchurch was relatively modern?

Did the Commission take into account that in many instances the tenant may have to pay for the strengthening under the improvements clause contained in most leases?

Did the Commission think about what happens to business tenants with leases who will have their businesses destroyed while strengthening is undertaken?

What will happen if a tenant breaks their lease citing “earthquake prone” issues. Who will pay the building owner compensation? ( this is happening already)

Typically many buildings are in rows wall to wall. How do you upgrade one without causing massive interference with the one next door?

Is the Council that once gave permission to build even if it was decades ago, still  liable for wrongly approving the construction method at the time? (compare that to the  leaky homes issue).

What happens if a building is less than 34% strength and the insurance is cancelled as a result?  Any mortgage could be called up on the spot and the innocent building owner could face horrendous claims arising from no public liability insurance, or no cover for fire, flooding, accidents etc .

Why is there not  a strong recommendation for fiscal incentives to be given to owners thus creating jobs and tax revenue which would off set tax losses? ( already shot down by the Government)

Look at this photo of Queen Street Auckland 100 years ago.There is not one recognisable building standing today. In 100 years from now ( a milli-second historically speaking) all earthquake prone buildings will be gone or redeveloped by then. That is the natural order of things and that is how the problem will right itself with only the gentle of nudges by the powers that be.

 

If we are not careful we could end up with a large number of vacant or part vacant buildings and depressed rates revenues because owners will find it cheaper to forget about the strengthening altogether.

Something like this happened in New york in the 1970′s where massive disincentives were imposed on rental property resulting in tens of thousands of landlords abandoning them as too expensive to hold onto. The inevitable result was the creation of third world slums, non paying squatters, and the rise of crime and drugs abuse.

To my mind, the reaction to a one in 10,000 year event is exaggerated. By all means have a policy of strengthening buildings, but surely when they are being upgraded in any event ( as happens naturally over time) or where they are so dangerous that immediate action must be taken.

In summary I believe this report, well meaning as it is, will end up as a very large and expensive doorstop.

Congratulations to the Royal Commission for taking on the task but I think their excellent work will come to nothing.

Download the Report as a PDF

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