New Zealand is a seismically active country and because of that rules apply to potential earthquake-prone buildings.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is responsible for overseeing the changes to the Building Act and relevant regulations.

Territorial authorities (councils) play a key role in managing earthquake-prone buildings.

Council's role

  • identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings and notify the building owners
  • consider engineering assessments provided by building owners
  • determine if a building is earthquake-prone, and if it is, assign an earthquake rating
  • issue EPB notices to owners of earthquake-prone buildings
  • publish information about earthquake-prone buildings on the EPB register

Impact on Southland District

New Zealand has been divided into three seismic risk areas (see map below) ; low, medium and high. Southland District spans across High, Medium and Low seismic risk areas.  

The 3 seismic zones have different times frames for councils and owners to complete the work required.

Council will work with building owners if their buildings are deemed to be earthquake-prone. If buildings are considered to be earthquake-prone, owners will be required to provide Council with an engineering assessment within 12 months of the notification.

If the owner does not provide Council with an engineering assessment within this timeframe, the building will be deemed to be earthquake-prone by Council.

Managing public safety

Identifying and responding to earthquake-prone buildings (and the changes to legislation) is done in the context of public safety. Buildings that have been 'earthquake strengthened' can still collapse as a result of an earthquake, however, the strengthening work is designed to help prevent loss of life.

Decision on priority area consultation

After going through a public consultation process, Council has decided to classify the following areas as earthquake priority areas:

  • Otautau - 126-176 Main Street from the Alderley Street intersection to the Chester Street intersection
  • Riverton - 96 - 176 Palmerston Street from Jetty Street to in part just past Princess Street
  • Winton - 102 – 304 Great North Road from Bute Street intersection to George Street Intersection
  • Wyndham - Balaclava Street from Redan Street towards Scutari Street not including numbers 12, 42, 44, 61 and 63 Balaclava Street.

Council staff have assessed each building in the identified areas to determine whether the owner would be required to provide an engineering report to Council.

Council has followed the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment guidance documents to undertake these assessments. The Building Act 2004 required councils to complete their assessments of priority areas by July 2022. 

Following on from this we will be assessing each building in the District to determine if an engineering report is required. In the medium seismic zone, the timeframe set out by the Building Act is July 2027. We anticipate to complete these assessments ahead of schedule.

Not all buildings come under this legislation. Residential houses, farm buildings, bridges, tunnels and monuments where people can’t enter are not part of this legislation.

Hostels boarding houses or other specialised accommodation that are 2 or more storeys, however, will need to be assessed.