Legislation to facilitate recovery

This Issue This is a part of the Canterbury earthquakes feature

By - , Build 126

New legislation was created following the Christchurch earthquakes to streamline management and planning of demolition and reconstruction works, to ensure safety around damaged buildings and facilitate faster and more effective recovery.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (created in April 2011) is the government’s overarching document that enables changes to existing legislation and Acts. Through over 20 different Canterbury Earthquake Orders, legislative documents that have been temporarily changed include the Resource Management Act, the Local Government Act and the Energy Companies Act.

Most Orders expire in 2012, and all Orders apply only to the local authority districts of the Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council and Waimakariri District Council. The intention of the Orders is to cut through ‘red tape’, enabling urgent works to be performed faster and streamlining the planning and implementation of the very large volume of longer-term work.

Sometimes no building consent

The Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2010 (the Order) changed some provisions within the Building Act 2004. To ensure safety of damaged buildings and promote speedy repair, the Order enables a range of works that would normally require a building consent, to be performed without one. Approval is still required from the local council and, in many cases, sign-off from a structural engineer is also needed.

Demolition works (partial or complete) may be performed without consent on free-standing buildings no more than 3 storeys high.

Small-scale repair or reconstruction works that can be performed without consent by both homeowners and infrastructure asset owners, with approval from the local council, include:

  • replacing retaining walls up to 3 m high in rural areas
  • constructing stop banks and culverts
  • replacing swimming pools
  • replacing decks and bridges under 1.5 m high
  • replacing stairs
  • replacing chimneys.

Of course, all demolition and construction works must still be performed according to Building Code requirements.

Dangerous building definition

The Order extends the definition of a ‘dangerous building’, acknowledging that many structures now pose a severe hazard during even minor earthquakes. The Order also gives greater authority to local councils, allowing them to deem a building dangerous if they are unable to perform an on-site inspection safely and to perform repair or demolition works themselves if a building owner will not.

CERA leads recovery

Another significant impact of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 has been the establishment of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). CERA was created to lead the region’s recovery strategy and management and to bring together local authorities, central government, business groups and the community in moving forward. CERA reports to the newly created Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee.

CERA assumed responsibility in the region when the role of Civil Defence ended. In Christchurch, one of its primary roles is to ‘share the load’ of building and infrastructure management that would normally sit entirely with Christchurch City Council.

CERA working with local councils

Roles are shared between CERA and Christchurch City Council (CCC), Selwyn District Council and Waimakariri District Council. For example, CERA is responsible for building investigations in the CBD, leaving CCC able to focus greater on assessment of buildings outside the CBD, roading, water and wastewater issues. With this sharing of workloads, essential building and repair work has been able to progress faster.

Examples of work managed by CERA and CCC to date:

  • CERA has identified 839 unsafe buildings that need to be addressed (576 require total demolition).
  • CERA and CCC are working together on managing the Port Hills assessment and repair work. A team of geotechnical engineers is assessing ground stability, and a team of engineers and builders is assessing all houses.
  • CCC is overseeing patch repairs of more than 50,000 individual road surface defects caused by the earthquakes. Approximately 600 individual contractors are engaged, compared to the 50 individual staff normally required for road maintenance.
  • Contractors are working under the direction of CCC to repair residential wastewater connections and wastewater pressure mains. All pressure mains should now be repaired, allowing all waste to reach the under-repair Christchurch Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Across the city, contractors and engineers continue work to demolish, repair and begin the reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure. The rate of this short-term work, enabled by legislation changes and the presence of CERA, has given many benefits, including faster clarification of dangerous buildings, giving certainty to business owners, minor repairs have been completed to homes without delay, and lost utilities services have been returned to operation faster.

Limited lifetime

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 and CERA have a lifetime of 5 years, expiring in mid-2016. The Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2010 has a 12-month lifetime, finishing in September 2011, but this may be extended.

Download the PDF

More articles about these topics

Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.