Quake-risk identified

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Building owners with properties not up to earthquake standards will soon be hearing from City Hall.

Queenstown’s council believes it’s the first in the country to have completed a profile of all buildings within the district for potential earthquake risk.

A process is now underway to determine which are a priority to strengthen, something the public will get to weigh in on.

Council building services boss Chris English says the authority will determine which ones have unreinforced masonry that could fall during a quake, possibly causing serious harm or death.

A special consultation process will then begin, where the public can have their say and possibly suggest other priority buildings.

Building owners will be issued a notice informing them they need to give the council an engineering assessment that outlines what per cent of the building code their property meets. They have a year to get that done.

Queenstown is deemed a high-risk earthquake area, so building owners would have 15 years to bring their buildings up to code.

If a building is deemed a priority, the owners have seven-and-a-half years.

A 2015 seismic structural assessment report found the council’s own building, on Gorge Road, is only just above the Government’s earthquake-prone building standard of 34 per cent. It’s 35 per cent. The council is looking to move, potentially to a new building on Ballarat Street carpark.

English says the number of possible earthquake-prone buildings in the district is “not as significant as people might think”.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he says.

“It’s probably not the task we thought it was going to be.”

English is hoping the report on proposed buildings will land in front of councillors for approval in August or September.

One building in the district already under scrutiny is the Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown.

Mountain Scene reported last month the old bank and stables beside the museum, where some of its collection is housed, is earthquake-prone. A conservation plan and earthquake strengthening plan have been finished, and work is underway to determine the exact cost of the upgrade to the category 2 heritage building. Museum boss David Clarke says it will likely cost at least $1.5 million.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz