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First quake notices issued

Quake notices to be checked on Friday

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Up to 16 buildings in Masterton’s central business district will be deemed earthquake-prone this week after the owners failed to respond to a request from Masterton District Council a year ago for an engineer’s assessment.

The council is not yet naming the buildings, but will be checking on Friday that all are publicly displaying their earthquake-prone notices.

The council wrote to 19 owners of possibly earthquake-prone buildings 12 months ago, but only two provided engineer’s assessments, and one requested a time extension.

An earthquake-prone building is one that does not meet 34 per cent of the requirements of the New Building Standard.

“Earthquake-prone” means buildings are more at risk of sustaining damage in a moderate earthquake.

The council’s manager of strategic planning Tania Madden said the it had no choice but to issue the notices.

“If we haven’t received an assessment within the timeframes, the default position under the act is that they are classified as earthquake prone until proven otherwise.

“We are one of the early councils [in the country] to have reached this phase of the process.

“We are hoping the notices, which we are required to issue under the act, will encourage building owners to get assessments done.”

“The buildings haven’t changed, but the legislation has – the process of identifying buildings that may need improvement has changed.”

How members of the public react remains up to them.

“The requirement to display notices enables members of the community to make an informed decision about whether to enter buildings.

“They will have information that they didn’t have before.”

“Whether or not they use the buildings is a decision they must make,” Madden said.

The general manager of Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce Catherine Rossiter-Stead said the notices should send a clear message to landlords.

“I would say that they should get it sorted – they should find out.

“If their building isn’t earthquake-prone then that’s great, but if it is, then they have a duty of care to their tenants to tell them the situation.”

Rossiter-Stead said the impact on members of the public of the notices may depend on their awareness of earthquake risks.

“It may make people reluctant to go into a building, but because there haven’t been any [earthquake] incidents recently, it is not really front of mind for people.

“It may have an impact on retail, activity if the buildings are high street stores.”

Rossiter-Stead is on the board of the Greytown Trust Lands Trust and said the issue of earthquake prone buildings was a regular item on agendas.

This week’s notices won’t be the last – the council has until 2022 to identify all earthquake-prone buildings in the district and has prioritised the CBD between Chapel and Dixon streets, and from the northern roundabout south to Worksop Rd.

The first building to receive a notice,on Sunday, was the council’s own town hall building.

The Building Act makes unreinforced masonry buildings a “category A” risk, required to be strengthened within seven and half years, and includes buildings with unreinforced facades, a major source of damage and deaths in the Christchurch earthquake.

Category B covers pre-1976 buildings that are either more than three storeys or 12m in height, and category C covers buildings built before 1936 that are one or two storeys high. Owners have 15 years to strengthen these.

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