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Owners fined $37,500 for failing to strengthen quake-prone Petone building

News from Hutt City Council
A Lower Hutt company has been fined $37,500 for failing to complete earthquake strengthening of a residential building it owns in Petone – the first prosecution of its kind in New Zealand.

The case centres on an earthquake-prone building notice issued to the company in 2008, and follows years of repeated attempts by the Hutt City Council to get Alura Ltd to strengthen the building to a safe standard.

Alura was fined $37,500 after earlier pleading guilty to one charge under the Building Act. The building is at 307 Jackson Street, located within the Jackson Street Heritage Precinct. The charge carried a maximum fine of $200,000.

In his sentencing decision, the Judge described Alura’s failure to strengthen or demolish the building for almost a decade as “egregious”.

He said the sentence reflects the risk the building poses to human life, the length of time Alura failed to comply with the notice, and the need to deter other earthquake-prone building owners from delaying strengthening or demolition.

In his decision, he said: “The defendant has continued to generate rental income from residential tenants, who have been put at risk by the defendant’s non-compliance.”

Council Divisional Manager, Environmental Consents, Helen Oram, says the Judge’s sentencing comments mirror Council’s key concerns.

She says the Judge appears to share Council’s overriding concern for the safety of Alura’s tenants, those visiting the building and pedestrians passing by.

“As a nation, we learnt some harsh lessons from the Christchurch and Kaikoura quakes, and local authorities and property owners need to keep these lessons top of mind.

“One of Council’s main aims when taking this prosecution was to send the message to other building owners, who might be thinking about dragging their feet on earthquake strengthening, that they need to think again.”

Last month, the Council issued a notice for occupants to vacate the building so it could be strengthened or demolished.

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