Emergency management of buildings to change

  • Nick Smith
Building and Housing

A new system for managing buildings following a disaster like a major earthquake or storm event is being proposed and is open for consultation, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.

“People did an extraordinary job in the aftermath of the tragic Canterbury earthquakes but our systems were not as robust as they could be. We owe it to everyone involved that we learn every possible lesson. These proposed changes to the Building Act are consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry,” Dr Smith says.

“We need robust, clear laws for managing the risks from buildings following a major disaster. We want to minimise the risk to life while also ensuring people can get access to buildings that pose negligible risk as quickly as possible.

The discussion paper proposes significant changes to the Building Act, covering the decision to use the emergency powers, assessment of buildings, placing red, yellow or white placards on buildings, restricting access and the power to alter or demolish buildings without requiring a building or resource consent. The proposals include clear appeal rights, give particular regard to heritage, and how the powers transition to the local authority after an emergency event.

“These proposals are a significant improvement to what occurred in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, where we had to use special powers developed in a rush. The powers, responsibilities and legal tests will be clearer. We will also be training the hundreds of skilled professionals needed in such situations on the system so our response is more responsive and efficient,” Dr Smith says.

“These new powers significantly impact on people’s private property rights, as well as heritage and safety. We are keen to consult with building owners, members of the building profession, local authorities and the general public to get the detail right.”

Submissions close on Friday 25 July. Consultation papers and instructions for submitters are available at: www.building.govt.nz/current-consultations.

The Government intends to introduce a Building Amendment Bill to Parliament later this year to implement the changes, with future opportunity for public input.