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New building law 'to save lives in earthquakes'

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A Bill passed by Parliament today by 120 to 1 requiring the upgrade of older buildings will save hundreds of lives in future earthquakes, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

"New Zealand is one of the most seismically active countries in the world and we need to progressively upgrade our older buildings to reduce the risks. The new law targets the areas and buildings that pose the greatest risk and it is estimated it will reduce fatalities by 330 and serious injuries by 360 over the next 100 years," Dr Smith said.

"The significant change with this law is that the previous requirements that have evolved in building regulations since 1931 were the standards for new buildings. This law puts an obligation on older building owners, relative to location, use and risk, to have their buildings assessed and upgraded.

"This Bill has evolved significantly, in response to submissions and additional analysis, since the original proposals following the Christchurch earthquake in 2011. The first major change is varying the timeframe for assessment from five to 15 years and upgrades from 15 to 35 years relative to seismic activity, with New Zealand classified into low, medium and high risk areas. There is also a potential extension of 10 years for heritage buildings."

"The second significant change is prioritising buildings and parts of buildings which pose a higher risk. Education, emergency buildings and unreinforced parapets and facades on public thoroughfares will need to be upgraded in half the standard timetable. I particularly pay tribute to Christchurch Earthquake survivor Dr Anne Brower, for her advocacy for the policy refinements about parapets and facades.

"There is now a huge amount of work in implementing this significant building law change with councils. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will be consulting on the detailed regulations in coming months.

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