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Christopher Finlayson, Maurice Williamson

7 December, 2012

Earthquakes Royal Commission Vol 4 released

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson and Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson today released the second part of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission’s report (Volume 4), which covers a range of practice and policy issues relating to earthquake-prone buildings, particularly how these buildings are identified and managed.

The report includes findings around the deaths of the 42 people who died due to the collapse of, or falling debris from, older, unreinforced masonry (URM) or brick or block structures. These matters were separate from the deaths that occurred in the PGC and CTV buildings, which are addressed in other volumes of the Royal Commission’s report.

“Our thoughts are with the friends and families of all the 185 people who lost their lives in the earthquake, and, in particular of the 42 people referenced in this volume of the report. This will be a poignant day for them as they continue to try to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones,” Mr Finlayson says.

Volume 4 of the Royal Commission’s report was released today alongside a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment consultation document on proposals to improve the earthquake-prone buildings policy system.

“The Royal Commission has made a total of 36 recommendations in Volume 4, broadly covering the identification and management of earthquake-prone buildings throughout New Zealand and how to increase public awareness of the safety of buildings in New Zealand,” Mr Williamson says.

It is estimated there are between 15,000 and 25,000 earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand, which equals about 8-13 per cent of all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings.

“The recommendations contained in the Royal Commission’s report could have significant economic implications for those building owners,” Mr Williamson says.

“We believe it’s important to provide a workable balance, while still being realistic about what is practical and affordable. We want to get the views of New Zealanders to ensure our earthquake-prone building policy is robust.

“The consultation document released today looks carefully at all aspects of the earthquake-prone buildings system, including the risks, costs and benefits associated with alternative strengthening options and timeframes.

“We must ensure the earthquake-prone buildings system strikes an acceptable balance between protecting people from serious harm and managing the huge economic costs of strengthening or removing the most vulnerable buildings,” Mr Williamson says.

“One of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission in Volume 4 is that all existing buildings are seismically assessed and the information as to whether a building is above or below the earthquake-prone building threshold is made easily available to the public.”

Volumes 1-3 of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission’s report were received by the Government on 29 June 2012 and released on 23 August 2012.

The remaining parts of the report (Volumes 5-7) were received by the Government on 29 November 2012 and will be released before Christmas. Mr Finlayson says the Government expects to issue its full and comprehensive response to the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission’s full report (Volumes 1-7) in early-to mid-2013.

To view Volume 4 of the Royal Commission’s final report visit: http://canterbury.royalcommission.govt.nz/Final-Report---Part-Two