Earthquakes in Auckland are a rare occurrence, despite us having had one last month.  What happened in Christchurch has got everyone thinking though, not least of all the lawmakers and there are new rules to be adhered to in relation to our buildings and whether they are strong enough.

Auckland Council has just released its draft policy on earthquake-prone, dangerous and insanitary buildings.  The policy is aimed at making certain the commercial buildings in Auckland can withstand a moderate earthquake.  The policy does not relate to residential buildings.

Public submissions are being sought and they must be with Auckland Council by 16 September, so this is a job to get done before you start watching rugby.

Council proposes to make an assessment of all commercial buildings in the Auckland area, to determine which of those are earthquake-prone.  Initially this will be a  desk top review and will draw in part from a similar analysis completed in the early 80s on CBD buildings.  Those buildings that are likely to be earthquake-prone will be visited by Council to check the accuracy of records held.  Those buildings that are not considered at risk are not intended to be reviewed. 
The policy states that no further assessment will be completed of those buildings that have been designed or strengthened to the 1976 NZS4203 and subsequent codes, unless they have a critical structural weakness.  In time it is expected that other classes of buildings will also be excluded from this evaluation process.

It is intended that at risk buildings, and the specific risks pertaining to each of them will have been identified by December 2012.  Buildings will then be categorised and some of them attributed specific roles in the event there were an earthquake.

If, after having gone through this process, the Council decides your building is to be assessed as at risk, you will be notified and Council will want you to strengthen it.  They say they will work with owners to reach an agreed solution and that  “Where a notice has been issued, buildings (parts) identified as earthquake prone will be required to be strengthened to no less than 34 per cent of the new building standard”

Debra Dorrington