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Carterton quake-prone notices may be invalid

A Wairarapa council is going to court to clarify what deadlines the owners of earthquake-prone buildings need to meet following a bureaucratic oversight, EMILY IRELAND reports.

Earthquake-prone building notices issued by Carterton District Council [CDC] in 2017 may be invalid.

The council is now awaiting a High Court judgment to inform its next steps, a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act [LGOIMA] response has revealed.

The notices issued by the council seven years ago required building remediation to be completed by 2021, but this date was incorrectly carried over from notices issued under previous legislation.

The issue relates to the deadline of the notices, rather than earthquake-prone assessments of the buildings.

CDC chief executive Geoff Hamilton said the decision to pursue a statutory declaration from the courts is to seek clarification on when building owners need to comply with legislation, and the role council will play in this process.

“We are working with building owners to help them meet their obligations under the Building Code and council’s regulatory requirements,” Hamilton said.

“Legislation does provide measures, but we want to work together to deliver the best outcome for everyone.

“The safety of our community and visitors is the primary issue, as well as supporting the affected building owners.

“It’s vital that businesses and building owners continue with measures such as keeping their warning stickers visible.”

The Building Act 2004 required all councils in New Zealand to adopt policies regarding earthquake-prone buildings by May 31, 2006.

In those policies, councils had the discretion to designate their own timeframes for seismic strengthening.

A CDC spokesperson said that in 2006, CDC undertook the required initial assessment to identify earthquake-prone buildings within three months of the policy being adopted.

“Since then, council has sent template letters at various stages to the affected building owners outlining their requirements to comply with legislation, and potential timeframes in which to achieve this,” the spokesperson said.

In 2017, following a change in the Building Act 2004, the council was required to issue new notices under section 133AL of the Act.

“The council’s s133AL Notices referenced the earlier s124 Notices [issued in 2016] but failed to carry over the deadline for completion of seismic work.

“Because of this, council wanted clarification on the next steps to take, as the options ranged from issuing new 133AL notices for the remaining buildings, prosecution of building owners, seeking an MBIE determination, carrying out the seismic work themselves, or seeking a declaratory judgement from the High Court.

“Council considered that the most appropriate course of action was the declaratory judgement from the High Court.” -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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