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General Information

General Information

1.         Why is Council carrying out earthquake-prone building assessment work?

The earthquake-prone building assessment project is an important piece of work that we must carry out.  It is driven by central government and is a response to the Canterbury earthquakes.  Current legislation means councils need to assess and determine the seismic performance of earthquake-prone buildings across the country.

Council is undertaking this work under its Earthquake Prone Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings (Earthquake building) policy and the Building Act 2004.

The earthquake-prone building assessment work is a major initiative included in Council’s FutureKāpiti - Long term plan 2015-35.

2.         Which buildings is Council planning to assess?

The Building Act 2004 requires us to assess all commercial, industrial and school buildings – and residential buildings that are two or more storeys high and contain three or more household units. 

Council has carried out a preliminary review of its files and identified approximately 1500 buildings in the Kāpiti Coast district that meet this criteria and require assessment.

These 1500 buildings are mainly commercial, industrial or school buildings.

3.         What is a ‘household unit’?

The Building Act 2004 defines a household unit as:

A building or group of buildings, or part of a building or group of buildings, that is:

(i) used, or intended to be used, only or mainly for residential purposes; and

(ii) occupied, or intended to be occupied, exclusively as the home or residence of not more than 1 household; but does not include a hostel, boardinghouse, or other specialised accommodation

4.         What does the assessment process involve?

Council will initially conduct a pilot in February 2016 to standardise the processes that will be used by our technical specialists to assess a building’s earthquake-prone status.  To do this, we will assess a mix of 26 Council-owned buildings and privately-owned commercial buildings.

Once the pilot is completed, all other buildings identified as requiring assessment will be assessed over the next five years.  Buildings belonging to utilities that have a role in emergency and post-disaster response, such as those used by ambulance and fire services, and schools, will be a priority in the first year. 

5.         What process will Council use to assess the strength of buildings to resist earthquakes?

Council will use a best-practice assessment process, the Initial Evaluation Procedure (IEP), developed by the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineers to identify earthquake-prone buildings.

6.         What is an IEP?

The Initial Evaluation Procedure (IEP) is undertaken by our technical specialist who reviews any available building consent plans, visits the building site and conducts an assessment. 

The assessment is based on the age, construction materials, structural form, overall dimensions, the use of the building and the ground on which it is built, but does not involve detailed assessment of building components.

More information on the IEP process is available through the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineers’ Website

7.         Who is undertaking the earthquake-prone building assessment work?

Council has engaged structural specialists, Opus and Beca, to carry out initial evaluation procedures (IEPs) on buildings we’ve identified as needing to be assessed.

Opus and Beca have a great deal of expertise in assessing the earthquake safety of buildings.

Opus has worked with Chorus, the Ministry of Justice as well as the Ministry of Education in providing IEPs, Initial Seismic Assessments (ISA) and Detailed Seismic Assessments (DSA) on their building stock as well specialist advice.

Beca assisted Wellington City Council in developing the Council’s methodology for implementing its earthquake prone building policy and the model for carrying out ISA’s. The policy is recognised as one of the most successful in New Zealand. Beca has also worked with Victoria University of Wellington and KiwiRail in assess their building stock.

8.         If a building is assessed as earthquake-prone, what does that mean?

An “earthquake-prone building” is a structure that is less than one third of the current new building standard (NBS). These are buildings estimated to pose 20 times the risk of buildings complying with current building standards.

The earthquake-prone provisions of the Building Act 2004 focus on the prevention of personal injury and the protection of other properties.

It is important to understand that just because a building is not earthquake prone, it does not mean it won’t be damaged in an earthquake. It can be expected that after a strong earthquake, buildings that have kept the occupants safe from injury can still need extensive repair before being reoccupied and may even have to be demolished. The higher the level of strengthening, the better the chances the building can continue to be used, and for building owners, avoiding the need for expensive repairs.

More detailed definition of ‘earthquake-prone’ is available through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website

9.        What happens if buildings are assessed as being potentially earthquake-prone?

Council will use a similar process as used by other councils. 

If you are the building owner, Council will send you a letter advising you your building is assessed as potentially earthquake-prone.  Before it’s formally assessed as earthquake-prone, you will have the opportunity (12 months) to provide information to Council on the seismic strength of your building for consideration.  You may choose to engage an independent structural engineer to undertake an Initial Evaluation Procedure (IEP) or a more detailed evaluation of your building’s seismic performance.  We will consider any additional information you provide and may re-evaluate the seismic performance as a result.

Once we’ve assessed any additional information you have given us, we’ll contact you to notify you of our final assessment of the building’s earthquake-prone status.

If on reviewing the additional information supplied, Council is satisfied that your building is more than one-third of the current seismic loading standard (NZS 1170.5:2004 ), it will be considered unlikely to be potentially earthquake prone under section 122 of the Building Act 2004. No further action is required by you.

If however, on reviewing the additional information supplied, Council considers that your building is less than one-third of the current seismic loading standard (NZS 1170.5:2004 ), it will still be considered potentially earthquake prone under section 122 of the Building Act 2004.

You may need to provide additional to Council if you wish to be reassessed.

Council will issue an earthquake-prone building notice to you as the owner, to the occupiers and to any persons or organisations that have an interest in the building. This is required under section 124 of the Building Act 2004. In the interests of public safety, a copy of the section 124 notice will also be fixed in a prominent position on the building.  

The earthquake-prone building (section 124) notice will require you as the building’s owner to reduce or remove the danger posed by the building within the time limits set out in the notice.  This could be achieved by strengthening or demolition.

10.       What is a section 124 notice?

A section 124 notice is issued to owners of buildings deemed to be earthquake prone. Under section 124 (s124) of the Building Act section 124 prohibited access notices are issued to a dangerous property, primarily to ensure public safety. The notice gives a time limit for the building owner to reduce or remove the danger posed by the building.  This could be achieved by strengthening or demolition.

Please note: Because the timeframes requiring owners to undertake structural strengthening or remove the danger are different under Council’s Earthquake Prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy 2006 and the changes incorporated in the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016, to avoid any potential confusion Council will not initially issue formal section 124 notices until the new legislation comes into effect. It is anticipated that this new law will come into effect on 1 July 2017.If there is a significant delay to the implementation of the Amendment Act, Council will review the issuing of section 124 notices.

11.        Will Council place notices on buildings formally assessed as earthquake-prone?

Council will first try to work with building owners to improve building safety rather than issuing
formal notices. If nothing is done to strengthen the building, ultimately a section 124 notice will be placed on the building to inform the public of its earthquake-prone status. 

Please note: Because the timeframes requiring owners to undertake structural strengthening or remove the danger are different under Council’s Earthquake Prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy 2006 and the changes incorporated in the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016, to avoid any potential confusion Council will not initially issue formal section 124 notices until the new legislation comes into effect. It is anticipated that this new law will come into effect on 1 July 2017.If there is a significant delay to the implementation of the Amendment Act, Council will review the issuing of section 124 notices.

12.        As a member of the community, how will I know if a building in the Kāpiti Coast district is assessed as potentially earthquake-prone?

Information on the earthquake-prone status of a building is public information and is available from Council on request.

If you have any questions, please call us on 0800 486 486 or email: EQPBuildings@kapiticoast.govt.nz

13.        Who pays the cost of doing the earthquake-prone building assessment work?

Council has budgeted the estimated cost of the earthquake-prone building assessment work to be $2.5 million over the five year period 2016-20.  This budget is included in Council’s FutureKāpiti  – Long term plan 2015-35.

14.        How can I find out more information about the earthquake-prone building work process?

- There is additional information on Council’s website including our Earthquake Prone Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings policy

- You can call us on 0800 486 486, or email: EQPBuildings@kapiticoast.govt.nz

- You can also sign up to our quarterly E- Newsletter. Just email: EQPBuildings@kapiticoast.govt.nz to sign up.