Port Hills S124 Hazard Notices Can Continue

Press Release by New Zealand Government at 5:27PM, 16 Sep 2013

The Government has today agreed to a new Order in Council, under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, to ensure people continue to be protected from earthquake related hazards in Christchurch’s Port Hills.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson says the latest geotechnical information confirms a level of risk from hazards, such as rock roll, still exists in the Port Hills.

“The new Order in Council will enable existing section 124 notices that prevent people occupying buildings at risk from hazards in the Port Hills, to remain enforceable.

“These notices not only protect property owners but also give them clarity about the issue as they make decisions about the future of their properties,” Mr Williamson says.

The Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2011, which expires today, extended the definition of a dangerous building so that greater Christchurch councils could issue section 124 notices to buildings that were not themselves dangerous but were at risk from natural hazards including rock fall, landslip or cliff collapse. The notices could also be issued to buildings that were at risk of collapsing or causing death in a less than moderate earthquake.

“The Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2013 is necessary to ensure Christchurch City and Waimakariri District councils continue to have the power to enforce the existing section 124 notices. The Order, which takes effect from tomorrow (17 September) and will remain in force until 18 April 2016, does not allow for new section 124 notices to be issued, based on the extended definition of a dangerous building.

“The Government’s next step is to consider legislative changes to address future situations anywhere in New Zealand where existing buildings become at risk due to a hazardous event, such as an earthquake, or where new information about hazard risk shows that existing buildings may be a safety risk,” Mr Williamson says.

The section 124 notices and new Order in Council is a different process to the land zoning undertaken in the Port Hills by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the land zoning in the Port Hills was designed to allow property owners to move on from properties that are subject to an unacceptable level of life risk over the long term which cannot be addressed on an individual or area-wide basis.

“It does not prevent residents from using their properties but clearly identifies the risk that does exist in the long term as a result of the earthquakes,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Unlike the process for issuing section 124 notices under the Building Act, decision making about zoning does not take into account existing protective structures, such as other houses, trees or rockfall protection structures, as there is no guarantee that these will always be present in the long term.”

The zoning decisions in the Port Hills have been subject to a review to ensure the zoning criteria has been applied correctly and consistently. The results of the review were due to be announced two weeks ago, but this has been delayed as a result of the `Quake Outcasts’ High Court judgment that raises issues around the zoning process.

“We are now looking forward to having those issues further clarified by the Court of Appeal,” Mr Brownlee says.

The new Order in Council is necessary so that the councils can continue to manage risks from earthquake-related hazards and is not related to the postponement of the final Port Hills zoning decisions.