New Zealand: Earthquake-prone buildings: an update

Last Updated: 16 January 2018
Article by Emily Walton


Until recently, each territorial authority in New Zealand had an earthquake-prone building policy. The policies addressed the identification of earthquake-prone buildings, and building owners' roles and responsibilities in relation to those buildings and seismic strengthening work.

On 1 July 2017, the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 came into force. It amends the Building Act 2004 to include special provisions for earthquake-prone buildings (mainly in sub-part 6A) and replaces the individual earthquake-prone building policies.


Sub-part 6A does not apply to residential buildings except for hostels, boarding houses or other specialised accommodation buildings of two or more stories, or buildings containing three or more household units.

Buildings may be classified as priority buildings. Priority buildings include hospitals, emergency response buildings and educational facilities but also parts of unreinforced masonry buildings which could fall from the building onto a public thoroughfare in an earthquake.

Council responsibilities

The amended Building Act requires territorial authorities (i.e. Councils) to identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings. For priority buildings in high risk areas, including Canterbury, this must be done within two years and six months of 1 July 2017, or five years from that date for buildings that are not priority buildings.

When the territorial authority identifies a building as potentially earthquake-prone, it must request the owner provide an engineering assessment within 12 months. The owner can apply for a further 12-month extension, but no later than two months before the engineering report's original due date. If the owner does not provide an engineering assessment within the required time, the building is deemed to be earthquake-prone and the territorial authority must proceed as if it has assessed it as such.

On receiving the engineer's assessment, the territorial authority must determine whether a building is earthquake-prone. A building is earthquake-prone if it has less than 34% of the required seismic strength of a new building, and if it were to collapse, it would likely cause injury or death to people in or near the building, or damage to property.

On identifying an earthquake-prone building, the territorial authority must then "promptly" issue an earthquake-prone building notice (EPB Notice). The EPB Notice is sent to the owner, affixed to the building and sent to the mortgagee, amongst others.

Earthquake-prone Building Notices

The EPB Notice must identify that part of the building is earthquake-prone. It should state that the owner is required to carry out seismic work and the deadline for that seismic work. The deadline for performing seismic work on priority buildings in high risk areas is seven years and six months from the date the first EPB Notice is issued (and 15 years for any other buildings).

The territorial authority can grant exemptions for performing seismic work in some cases, but the exemption criteria are yet to be established by the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations. Owners of heritage buildings may apply to the territorial authority for an extension of up to 10 years to complete the required seismic work.

The territorial authority may assess information regarding earthquake-prone buildings at any time. It must review any engineering assessments provided by an owner and if it determines that the building is earthquake-prone, it must issue an EPB Notice.

Section 133AT replaces section 112 of the Building Act 2004 for earthquake-prone buildings. It provides that a building consent authority (i.e. a Council) must not grant building consent for a substantial alteration of a building with an EPB Notice unless the alteration includes the necessary seismic work. What is a "substantial alteration" will be revealed when the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations come into force.

Amendments to section 124

Before the amendments to the Building Act, territorial authorities were able to issue notices under section 124 of the Building Act requiring the owner of an earthquake-prone building to undertake work to remove or reduce the danger. Section 124 no longer applies to earthquake-prone buildings and interestingly, the safety requirements a territorial authority may now impose for earthquake-prone buildings under section 133AR is limited to erecting hoardings or fences and issuing notices containing warnings, or restricting entry to the building.

However, territorial authorities can apply to the District Court for orders under section 133AS allowing it to carry out seismic work to buildings with EPB Notices where the owner has not carried out seismic work by the date specified in the EPB Notice. The owner of the building will be liable for the cost of that work. However, as even owners of priority buildings in high risk areas have seven years and six months from issue of the EPB Notice to perform the seismic works, this provision is unlikely to have "teeth" in the foreseeable future.

Unreinforced masonry buildings

There is an exception, however. Before section 124 was amended, the territorial authorities in Wellington, the Hutt Valley, Marlborough and the Hurunui issued section 124 notices to owners of unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings requiring them to secure street facing parapets and facades within 12 months. A fund has been established to help meet the cost of this work. The consequences of non-compliance are yet to be seen, but it's likely we will see applications under section 133AS.


Given the heightened awareness of the dangers of earthquake-prone buildings since the Canterbury and Hurunui/Kaikoura quakes, the amendments to the Building Act do not convey much urgency in addressing earthquake-prone building issues.

Download article in PDF format

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions