Press Release – Wellington City Council
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has welcomed the release of recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Christchurch earthquakes.
“Our thoughts are with the friends and families of those who lost their lives, and with the people still suffering physically, mentally and economically, as this report reminds us of the Christchurch tragedy.”
Mayor Wade-Brown says an initial reading of the report shows its authors have taken a thorough approach to the issue of how to deal with unreinforced masonry buildings and that their recommendations agree with the approach being taken by Wellington City Council.
She describes a key recommendation – that the minimum strength of a building should remain at 34% of current code - as a responsible approach to safety and heritage in the prevailing economic environment.
“Our aim is to have a resilient and beautiful city which will have buildings strengthened at a higher level than this minimum standard. The market is positive about requiring more resilient buildings.
“The issue of soaring insurance costs for thousands of building owners and the need for financial assistance for strengthening must be followed up. We may need more advocacy for financial support to ensure owners can strengthen their buildings in the time frame required.”
Mayor Wade-Brown is pleased that hazardous building elements, such as parapets, chimneys and ornaments, on buildings otherwise not deemed dangerous can be required to be strengthened or removed.
Councillor Iona Pannett, the City Council Environment Portfolio Leader, says most of the recommendations are pragmatic, recognising the need for a balance between public safety, economic impacts and preserving our heritage.
She notes the Commission’s report recommends that new legislation should give local authorities the flexibility to impose higher strengthening requirements depending on local needs and to consider whether residential buildings should be included in council quake policies.
“I like the suggestion of a public grading system - from A to E - that would more clearly explain the quake-strength status of buildings for the public.
“I âm pleased with the progress Wellington City Council has made in already assessing almost all our unreinforced-masonry buildings. We hâve strengthened most of them, and will comfortably meet assessment timeframes of the city’s buildings of 1 July 2014 to complete that work.”
Out of the 4800 buildings that currently need to be assessed. approximately 1200 remain to be reviewed. A recommendation from the report is that all commercial buildings and all multi-storey apartment buildings will need to be assessed regardless of age.