Government cracks the whip on Wellington’s quake prone buildings


After introducing emergency powers to make buildings safe in response to the Kaikoura earthquake, Dr Nick Smith, Minister of Building and Construction, has firmly announced his intention to use them. The announcement that hundreds of Wellington building owners will be made to secure their facades and other features likely to pose a threat in an earthquake, is an acknowledgement of a duty of care that building owners, the government and relevant agencies have to the public, to the people who work in them. And ultimately to New Zealand and New Zealanders as a nation and a people.

In just one year, 300 individual Wellington buildings are going to have to be brought up to code, or evacuated. This is leadership. It will be quite unpopular with building owners, but frankly Wellington is out of time. It dodged an artillery shell rather than a bullet on 14 November 2016. Had that earthquake happened in Cook Strait, thousands would have died, a considerably larger tsunami would have been triggered and for the second time in less than a decade New Zealand would have been mourning the deaths of innocent people who simply did not need to die.

Admittedly the time frame IS tight. By the time a contractor is arranged and comes in and does a survey of the building, several weeks might have passed. This will be especially the case now with a large number of building owners suddenly needing the same services and only a limited number of building inspectors available to do the work.

But no one was expecting the combination of faults that ruptured on 14 November 2016 to do so. What Wellington’s many faults have in store shall only be known when they rupture, by which time it will obviously be a bit too late. And the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences points to an elevated earthquake risk throughout the upper South Island and lower North Island at the present time.

So, I welcome Dr Smith’s announcement about how this will be tackled. I welcome too, the positive statements suggesting that at least a few organizations and agencies have learnt the lessons of Christchurch.

So, long story short: Let this happen because one day it will save a lot of lives. And hopefully E.Q.C. will be able to go easy on adverts like the last one in this clip.

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