Earthquake Prone Buildings timeframes commence

Monday 10 July 2017

Authors: Jane Holland and David Chisnall

​​​​The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 came into force on Saturday, 1 July 2017. The commencement date sets the clock running for the new deadlines imposed by the new regime.​

Action points for building owners

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 (the Act) imposes initial requirements on territorial authorities, as opposed to building owners.  However, there are still some action points for owners, so that they are fully prepared for the updated regime.

  • If a territorial authority (TA) identifies a building as an earthquake-prone building (EPB), the owner will have 12 months to obtain a seismic assessment. Building owners in areas with the shortest deadlines who suspect their building is an EPB but have not yet obtained an assessment  may want to start making provisions for obtaining an assessment from a suitably qualified engineer who is familiar with the new Guidelines (see below).    

  • Building owners who have already obtained a seismic assessment should obtain advice on whether that report satisfies the assessment standard set out in the new Seismic Assessment of Existing Buildings Guidelines1, which replace the 2006 NZSEE Guidelines. The assessment also needs meet the criteria for previous assessments set out in the EPB Methodology which the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) published last week.2

  • If a building is an EPB or suspected EPB, any leases or other occupational arrangements entered into should allow the owner to carry out seismic upgrade works within the statutory timeframe, or earlier. Bell Gully can provide a bespoke clause for that situation.

  • If structural building works are planned for an EPB (or suspected EPB), the new formula set out in regulation 11 of the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Regulations 2017 (the 2017 Regulations) needs to be reviewed.3 This regulation provides that building work that is a “substantial alteration” (under that formula) will trigger the need to complete the seismic upgrade earlier than otherwise anticipated under the Act.  

New methodology for TA review and owner assessments

TAs must complete a review of buildings in their area in order to identify EPBs. The review must be done by applying the new profile and identification techniques set out in MBIE’s newly published EPB Methodology (see above).

T​he timeframes for completing these reviews depend on where a TA is located. For example, TAs in a high risk seismic area such as Wellington or Blenheim must complete their review by July 2022, just five years from the commencement of the Act. For buildings that the TA identifies as a “priority” building, the deadline is 2.5 years away.

New deadlines for identification and strengthening of EPB

Seismic risk area​​​​​​

TA identification of potentially earthquake-prone buildings

Owner completion of strengthening works





High  Risk Areas
eg Wellington, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Napier/Hastings, Gisborne and Blenheim

2.5 years

5 years

7.5 years

15 years

Medium Risk Areas
eg Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Rotorua, Wanganui, Nelson, Invercargill and Timaru

5 years

10 years

12.5 years

25 years

Low Risk Areas
eg Northland, Auckland, Oamaru and Dunedin


15 years


35 years

TAs who had already started a review of EPBs under the old policies will not necessarily have to start again: MBIE guidelines state that TAs should review their work to date and determine if it aligned with the new policy.

If a TA identifies a building as a potential EPB, the owner will have 12 months to obtain an engineering assessment (if they do not already have a qualifying previous assessment) which applies the new EPB Methodology. If that assessment determines that the building is an EPB then the owner must carry out seismic strengthening works within the required timeframe. We provided further detail on this process when the Act was first passed last year – available here.

Criteria for exempted buildings

The Act allows building owners to apply for an exemption from the requirement to complete seismic upgrade works. The 2017 Regulations set out the criteria a building must satisfy in order to be granted an exemption. An exemption is possible for a building with low intensity of occupation where the owner can demonstrate that:

  • The building would cause low rates of death or injury if it collapsed in an earthquake, and

  • Transport or emergency recovery services would not be impeded by the collapse of the building.

The scope of these criteria are wider than may first have been expected, but the definition of low intensity occupation means that the scope of the exemption will still be reasonably limited.

Please contact our team if you would like advice on construction contracts or any of the other issues raised in this update.

1 Available for download at

2 ​

3 Available at


This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.

For more information
  • Jane Holland

    Partner Auckland
  • David Chisnall

    Partner Wellington
  • Karl Anderson

    Partner Auckland
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