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Thursday, 21 March 2019 01:14 pm

Building owners can bank on council to stop bits falling on people

Building owners on Cuba Street will be affected by the securing of parapets and facades in the CBD.

It isn’t the council’s job to become a bank, a Wellington property developer scolded city councillors today before they voted to help owners earthquake-proof their buildings.

Richard Burrell, who has a long involvement in building strengthening, told councillors not to help fund earthquake-proofing for commercial property owners.

“They’re big boys, they’re able to do it. Your job is to make the city safe and resilient,” Mr Burrell said.

“Double the rates, until they’re strengthened. It’s a very simple mechanism, just double the rates. Triple them. You know, penalise them, they’ll come to the market.”

The council’s City Strategy Committee voted to give financial loans and project management support to building owners to get the work done.

The council and central government invested $3 million earlier this year to help secure facades after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake made a major earthquake in the capital more likely.

To access the funds, building owners had to commit their own money.

March 31, 2018 is the deadline for work on the 96 buildings.

But many owners will be unable to meet the deadline due to outstanding engineering work and other “complex issues that need active management,” according to the Council agenda.

Committee chair Councillor Iona Pannett says the deadline was always going to be ambitious.

“We’d hoped to get some building owners over the line and we just want to make sure that people are making progress.

“Enforcement action is our option of last resort, but we do want to remind owners that there is an increased risk of another significant aftershock and we need to get those buildings secure.”

Ms Pannett said the council knew the work would be demanding, and that advice around the costs was not as entirely accurate as the council needed it to be.

“We know we’re on a tough journey, and it’s a long one.”

She said she hoped the new measures would achieve the progress needed.

“We’re still far ahead of any other city in the country.”

Wellington City Council chief resilience officer Mike Mendonca says each of the 96 buildings is different.

“You’ve got the complete spectrum there, in some cases with the big institutional owners they’re very positive for it.

“At the other end of the spectrum there are some who are just not engaging at all, but I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority are in the middle somewhere.

“Generally speaking they know they’ve got to do something and most of them are getting on and at least thinking about it and doing some planning.”

Mr Mendonca said around a third had work in progress.

“So, a mixed bag. We’re quietly confident that the gravity of mass seems to be shifting positively but it pays to be cynical about these things and we won’t celebrate until we’ve actually got there.”

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