Changes to unsecured masonry repair initiative
Friday 22 December 2017
Earthquake damage in Wellington CBD
Concerns over engineering and construction capacity have led the government to make changes to their unreinforced masonry securing initiative.
By Miriam Bell
Earlier this year the government announced that it would require urgent upgrades of parapets and facades on high risk unreinforced masonry buildings within 12 months.
Councils in affected areas - Wellington, Hutt City, Blenheim and Hurunui - identified buildings with unreinforced masonry elements that had to be secured to manage life safety risks.
Building owners with unreinforced masonry parapets and facades that face into busy thoroughfares in were given a year (through to March 2018) to get the securing work done.
But Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa has now announced that a number of changes have been made to the initiative in response to practical concerns raised by building owners.
Despite active support from councils and engineers, engineering and contracting capacity is stretched and some buildings are larger and/or more complex to secure than anticipated, she says.
“There can be no doubt we need to get this work done quickly, to ensure we are meeting our safety requirements.
“However these amendments respond to the practical constraints building owners and councils are facing. We are looking to give building owners more support to get this vital work done.”
As a result, the minister wants to extend the time before penalties are applied. She is planning a further announcement on this and will seek feedback on potential changes in the New Year.
There has also been changes to the flexibility of the $4.5million Unreinforced Masonry Building Securing Fund to allow it to be used for more activities, she says.
From mid-February 2018, building owners will now be able to apply to the fund for:
• Up to $25,000 to secure either a single parapet or façade, or both (instead of $10,000 for a parapet and $15,000 for a façade).
• Funding for work to remove non-heritage unreinforced masonry parapets and facades.
• To raise the funding cap to secure large and complex unreinforced masonry buildings.
Building owners can also apply to MBIE for funding towards the cost of an engineering assessment as soon as they receive an invoice from their engineer, rather than once all work has been completed.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says it is a golden opportunity for building owners and he expects that the majority of Wellington landlords will take advantage of the changes.
“I encourage all building owners who haven’t yet engaged with the Council to do so quickly. There will be little sympathy for those who don’t have a plan to secure their unreinforced masonry.”
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