MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ Real Estate team, with Ross Pickmere and Jennifer Campbell contributing, discuss how Wellington City Council (WCC) is close to completing its process of identifying “priority buildings” for the purposes of the Building Act 2004 (Act).
The WCC process is a good example of how and why a building may be determined as a priority building under the Act, and we expect the WCC decision to be an interesting indication of how this ‘landscape’ is likely to develop over the coming months.
WCC – which operates in a “high risk” area for the purposes of the Act (see below) – published a Statement of Proposal in October 2018 containing details of those areas it considered to be high traffic routes and/or emergency transport routes. That Statement of Proposal identified those areas WCC considered to be priority thoroughfares (see below). Following completion of the public consultation, WCC received a report that recommended shortening the priority building areas within a number of the streets included in the Statement of Proposal, removing some of those streets completely, and adding some others. WCC’s final decision was expected last week, having been delayed from the previous week.
Close to half of the Councils in New Zealand operate in high risk areas, meaning that they have until 31 December 2019 to identify priority buildings in their area for the purposes of the Act. For general background on the determination of Earthquake Prone Buildings (EPBs) and applicable time frames see our alert here.
Priority buildings are those that are considered to pose a high risk to life safety, or to be critical to recovery in an emergency. In order to comply with their statutory obligations, Councils must identify priority buildings in medium or high risk areas in half the time allowed for other EPBs, and owners must remedy those buildings in half the time allowed for other EPBs – i.e.
Identification by Councils
- In high risk areas – by 31 December 2019 instead of 30 June 2022
- In medium risk areas – by 30 June 2022 instead of 30 June 2027
Remediation by owners
- In high risk areas – 7.5 years from the date of the Council notice specifying the building as an EPB (instead of 15 years for EPBs that are not priority buildings)
- In medium risk areas – 12.5 years from the date of the Council notice specifying the building as an EPB (instead of 25 years for EPBs that are not priority buildings)
Some buildings automatically fall into the priority building category based on their use – e.g. hospitals and emergency response service buildings. Others may be priority buildings due to location and potential for failure in an earthquake.
Councils use input from the community to help identify buildings that are priority buildings due to their location and potential for failure. Like WCC, various Councils have already issued, and sought public responses on, Statements of Proposal (or similar) identifying “priority thoroughfares” in their areas – being areas having high pedestrian and vehicular movement, i.e.
- Areas where shops or other services are located
- Areas where concentrations of people work or move around
- Areas where concentrations of people access transport
- Key walking routes that link areas where people are concentrated
- Key traffic routes regularly used by private vehicles and public transport
- Areas where high concentrations of vehicles build up
Once a Council has determined where the priority thoroughfares are located, it can then identify buildings on those thoroughfares that have “unreinforced masonry”. An unreinforced masonry (URM) building is generally one with no additional reinforcing elements, often with parapets, facades, verandas or balconies facing the road/footpath.
URM buildings on a priority thoroughfare, or buildings that could fall in an earthquake and impede an emergency transport route, are deemed to be priority buildings.
At least one Council has already completed the whole process, and has notified the relevant building owners. As the 31 December deadline gets closer more will certainly follow.
If you have any queries about this article or issue, please contact the authors.
Ross Pickmere, Partner – Property and Real Estate, is one of New Zealand’s leading commercial property and construction lawyers. He brings more than 35 years’ experience to his diverse property practice with a focus on commercial property, construction, projects and development. Known for his commercial and affable approach, Ross has been the principal legal adviser on some of New Zealand’s’ significant land development and urban renewal projects. Ross’s expertise extends across a broad spectrum of industries including building, forestry, education, health and ageing, transportation and energy. He advises on environmental issues and industry specific regulatory controls including the Resource Management Act, the Building Act and Overseas Investment Act compliance. He’s widely recognised for his legal advice on all aspects of commercial property. Ross is skilled in the development of strategic sites. Contact Ross at [email protected]
Jennifer Campbell, Senior Associate – Property and Real Estate, specialises in helping businesses to buy, sell, lease, develop, fund and manage commercial premises and land. On a daily basis, she negotiates terms, handles transactions and advises businesses on the law affecting their premises and land. This helps businesses to achieve their desired outcomes for their commercial properties effectively and efficiently, taking on less risk in the process, and with a better understanding of their property rights and the risks. Jennifer recognises the value of timely advice and a practical approach. Jennifer has a wealth of experience advising on commercial leases across a range of industries and acts for retail, industrial and healthcare clients with national portfolios. She also works with corporate tenants, hoteliers and restauranteurs advising them on all aspects of leasing, including due diligence prior to leasing and make-good obligations at the end of a lease. She has specialist experience advising on property issues in the energy and resources sector and works closely with food producers. Other areas that Jennifer routinely advises on are property developments, the financing of property transactions and the Overseas Investment Act (including making applications for consent for overseas persons and entities). Her expertise also extends to advising on the property aspects of insolvency and restructuring. Jennifer spent the first six years of her career practising law in the United Kingdom where she completed a secondment to a global property business. Contact Jennifer at [email protected] or connect via LinkedIn