The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill which was introduced
on 9 December 2013 had part of its first reading on 13 February 2014.
The Bill amends the Building Act 2004 and is intended to give effect to
reforms to improve the systems for managing earthquake-prone buildings. (See our
earlier newsletter "Earthquake Prone
Buildings and the Health and Safety in Employment Act" dated 25 October
2012). In particular, the Bill provides defined periods within which
earthquake-prone buildings must be assessed and then, if necessary, either
strengthened or demolished.
Key aspects of the Bill
The key aspects of the Bill are:
An "Earthquake-prone building" is defined as a building that would have its
ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake (defined in regulations) and
which would, if it collapsed, be likely to cause injury or death to people in
the building or on any other property, or damage to any other property. A part
of a building can also be determined to be earthquake-prone.
Territorial authorities are required to carry out seismic capacity
assessments on all non-residential buildings and multi-storey and multi-unit
residential buildings in their districts within five years of the commencement
of the Act. The methodology to be used for these assessments is to be specified
and published by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment
(MBIE), following consultation.
If a building, or any part of it, is determined to be earthquake-prone, the
owner must complete seismic work so that the building is no longer
earthquake-prone. This work must be completed within 15 years of the assessment
Certain "Priority Buildings" must be assessed and have seismic work carried
out within a shorter timeframe. "Priority Buildings" are not yet defined but are
to be defined in regulations. The Bill gives as examples of what might be
covered, buildings that could, if they were to collapse in an earthquake, impede
a transport route of strategic importance in an emergency, and buildings of
particular significance in terms of public safety (for example, because of what
may fall off or from them in an earthquake).
Owners of buildings held to be earthquake-prone can apply for an exemption
from the requirement to carry out seismic work. The criteria for granting such
exemptions will be set out in regulations. Category 1 heritage building owners
can also apply for an extension of the time to complete any seismic work.
Health and safety issues in the meantime
Some guidance on the interplay between the Building Act and the Health and
Safety in Employment Act 1992 (the HSE Act) has now been
provided by Worksafe New Zealand (Worksafe), which is New
Zealand's workplace health and safety regulator. A position statement was issued
on 13 December 2013 in which Worksafe outlined how employer and building owner
obligations will be enforced under the HSE Act.
The key points are:
Worksafe will not take health and safety enforcement action in relation to
the structural integrity of a building because this is covered by the Building
Act. Worksafe will, however, raise any issues regarding earthquake resilience of
buildings with the relevant council.
If a serious harm incident occurs because of the failure of a building's
structural integrity, Worksafe is unlikely to take further action if the
Building Act has been complied with. However, if it becomes clear that that is
not the case, enforcement action could be taken under the HSE Act.
For building components (such as ceilings, verandahs and glass) and chattels,
the obligations under the HSE Act apply. That means that both occupiers and
owners of buildings need to proactively identify and manage these workplace
hazards. Failure to do so will receive attention from Worksafe as the
Worksafe expects building owners and employers to keep up to date with new
relevant information that might raise concerns about safety in workplaces.
Employers and building owners need to work together to ensure that emergency
plans and procedures in place.
The Bill endeavours to strike a balance between ensuring that all
non-residential, multi-storey and multi-unit residential buildings are at a
level where people using those buildings will feel at least moderately safe,
while recognising that this is a large and very expensive task. Whether the
right balance has been struck is likely to be the subject of much debate as the
Bill progresses through the parliamentary process.
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.