Building owners are responsible for making sure proposed works meet the legislative and planning requirements for seismically strengthening buildings. This page provides an overview of some of the regulations you’ll need to know about. This information is general and you will need to seek your own legal advice when undertaking a project.

Building Act 2004

The Building Act 2004 sets out the rules for the construction, alteration, maintenance and demolition of new and existing buildings throughout New Zealand.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment administers the Building Act 2004. The Council where your building is located, acting as a building consent authority and territorial authority, is responsible for permitting building activities through the building consent process as well as a range of other building-related responsibilities.

Find out more about the Building Act 2004 on the Building Performance website

New system for managing earthquake-prone buildings

Management of earthquake-prone buildings changed through an amendment to the Building Act. The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 (the Amendment Act) has established a nationally consistent system for identifying and remediating earthquake-prone buildings. The Amendment Act took effect on 1 July 2017.

A building, or part of a building, is considered earthquake prone under the Building Act if:

  • it will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake (calculated by an engineer and given as a percentage new building standard - %NBS), and
  • if it were to collapse, would do so in a way that is likely to cause injury or death to persons in or near the building or on any other property, or damage to any other property.

Timeframes and priority

The timeframes for remediating a building will reflect the seismic risk of the region it’s in, and whether it’s considered a priority building.

Territorial authorities (local and district councils) must identify which earthquake-prone buildings are priority buildings. Priority buildings must be strengthened in half the time allowed for other earthquake-prone buildings in the same seismic risk area. This applies in high and medium seismic risk areas.

Priority buildings fall into two broad categories:

  • Prescribed buildings – including certain hospital, emergency and education buildings
  • Buildings where priority is determined with community input. This category includes buildings with unreinforced masonry (URM) that could fall in an earthquake onto certain roads or thoroughfares, and buildings that could impede strategic routes. Councils must hold public consultation to identify these buildings.

Buildings excluded from the strengthening process

Some types of buildings are excluded from the scope of the new system - for example, farm buildings, retaining walls, fences, some monuments, bridges and tunnels.

Residential buildings are included if they are two or more storeys and have three or more household units. A mixed use building that includes residential and other uses may be within the scope of the new system - check with your council.

How your local authority will work with you

As a building owner, you will be dealing with your territorial authority to assess whether your building is earthquake prone, and if it is, to ensure it is remediated within set timeframes. Under the new legislation, territorial authorities are required to:

  • identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings in their district and notify the building owners
  • consider engineering assessments provided by building owners
  • determine whether buildings are earthquake prone
  • assign an earthquake rating to earthquake-prone buildings
  • issue earthquake-prone building (EPB) notices requiring the owner to carry out work on the building within set timeframes
  • publish information about earthquake-prone buildings on the public register.

Find out more about the new system for managing earthquake-prone buildings on the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment website

Hurunui/Kaikōura Earthquakes Recovery Act 2016

The Government amended the Building Act in February 2017, after the Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquakes in 2016.

The amendment addresses the risk to public safety from buildings with unreinforced masonry (URM) on certain streets in Wellington City, Hutt City, Marlborough District and Hurunui District Council areas. It’s considered that these areas face a higher risk of earthquakes in the 12 months following those earthquakes.

The affected streets in these areas are listed in the Hurunui/Kaikōura Earthquakes Recovery (Unreinforced Masonry Buildings) Order 2017. Building owners will be told by their council if they are required to secure the parapets and facades on their buildings.

You could get help with strengthening URM

To support building owners who are subject to this requirement, the Government and affected councils have set up the Unreinforced Masonry Buildings Securing Fund.

Find out more about the Unreinforced Masonry Buildings Securing Fund on the Building Performance website

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014

This piece of legislation is important for two reasons when you undertake seismic strengthening works on an earthquake-prone heritage building. The Act:

  • provides for the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero, which identifies New Zealand’s significant and valued historical and cultural heritage places
  • makes it unlawful for anyone to modify or destroy, or cause to be modified or destroyed, all or part of a historic area, property, or archaeological site without first getting the authority of Heritage New Zealand.

Find out more about the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 on Heritage New Zealand’s website

Learn more about how Heritage New Zealand can assist you with a heritage upgrade project.

Resource Management Act 1991

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is New Zealand’s key piece of legislation setting out how we sustainably manage our environment. Under the RMA, local councils are responsible for making decisions to manage the effects of land use. They are required to prepare district plans to help carry out their functions under the RMA.

Historic heritage is a considered a matter of national importance under the RMA. Decision-makers must work to recognise historic heritage and protect it from inappropriate use, development, and subdivision.

Talk to your territorial authority about any district plan requirements relating to your building. For example, if your building is included in the district plan heritage schedule, you may need resource consent for a seismic strengthening project.

Find council information on the Local Government New Zealand website


Updated on 11th July 2017