The introduction of the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act in 2016 has led to the rapid closure of a number of public buildings.
According to this Act, if a building is below 34% of the New Building Standard (NBS) it is considered earthquake-prone and must be remediated within a specified time frame. However, some building owners are choosing to close buildings as soon as they are identified as earthquake-prone, leading to long periods where the services housed in those buildings are unavailable to the community.
The closure of some public buildings has led to notable and immediate socio-economic impacts. For example, the closure of the Southland Museum affected 41 jobs. The full economic, social, and cultural impacts are still to be realised. The closure of Naenae Olympic Pool in Lower Hutt has created a great sense of uncertainty in the community and some businesses reliant on pool users have already closed.
Our aim was to establish, through consultation with Territorial Authorities, advice and tools that would help decision-makers improve confidence in their decision-making around occupancy of earthquake-prone public buildings.
Currently, there is little consistency across Territorial Authorities (TAs) on how to make decisions related to the occupancy of earthquake-prone buildings.
TAs have a regulatory obligation as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). Also under the Local Government Act 2002 TAs have an obligation to take into account the interests of both current and future communities when making decisions. This includes the seismic resilience of assets as well as the economic, social, and cultural impacts of closing such assets.
This project is currently in its final stages of completion (due for publication in mid-2021) but an overview of a decision-making framework to help TAs balance their competing obligations and risks is now available.