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Thursday, May 12, 2011

300 crippled buildings still on waiting list

300 crippled buildings still on waiting list

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 10/05/2011
 
More than 300 buildings badly damaged in the September earthquake were never fixed.

Figures obtained by The Press show the Christchurch City Council served notices on 377 quake-damaged buildings after September 4, and the Boxing Day shake, requiring them to be repaired or demolished, most of them before January 31 this year.

The notices warned that the council could carry out repairs or demolition forcibly if necessary, with the owners liable for any costs incurred.

By the time of the February quake, only 62 of the buildings had been fixed or demolished.

Council environmental policy and approvals manager Steve McCarthy said that while most buildings were not fixed, all had been fenced off and secured, posing no risk to the public.

Some quake-damaged buildings might have complied, but had not yet been checked by the council, he said.

Delays arose from building owners being locked into talks with insurers or because they did not have enough money to fix anything, he said.

Problems with building owners after September 4 were similar to delays facing the central city now, "the subtle difference being that we have the whole of the central city blocked off this time".

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has warned building owners that faster action is needed on demolishing or fixing damaged buildings after the February 22 quake.

McCarthy said the council had acted as decisively as possible and did had not have the powers that had been vested in Civil Defence and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority since the February quake.

"The council would have loved to have those powers at that time," he said.

A council report last year showed 7658 buildings in Christchurch were potentially quake-prone, including 490 heritage buildings, because they were built before engineering standards were toughened in 1976.

Of these, about 960 unreinforced-masonry buildings were the biggest risk, likely to collapse in a "moderate" quake.

Some buildings have been strengthened, but under the current standards introduced in 2006, which require old buildings to be strengthened to 33 per cent of the Building Code, only 26 quake-prone Christchurch buildings were upgraded in the past five years, with another two after the September quake.

Before the September quake, the council had planned to survey of quake-prone buildings next year.

After September, the council raised the standard to 67 per cent, but plans to survey quake-prone buildings are on hold, pending a review of quake-strengthening rules.

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