Earthquake-Prone Buildings

The failure of earthquake-prone buildings, or parts, is a significant risk to public safety.

The new Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 came into force on 1 July 2017 and overwrites the Council’s existing earthquake-prone buildings policy.

The new legislation affects building owners, engineers, and councils.

What is the new law?

In May 2016, Parliament passed the Buildings (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act. The amendment affects the section of the Act that governs earthquake-prone buildings.

An earthquake-prone building is one that is less than 34% of new building standards (NBS).

The aim of this legislation is to introduce a nationally consistent approach to the assessment and management of earthquake-prone buildings, along with a standard notice and a national public register of earthquake-prone buildings.

What’s changed?

There are different time frames for buildings to be assessed and upgraded, depending on earthquake risk. The Tararua district is a high-risk seismic area and is subject to shorter timeframes than some other areas of New Zealand.

The new law also introduces a new classification of building called Priority Buildings. These include hospitals, emergency and education buildings. Also included are buildings with unreinforced masonry elements on busy pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes, and buildings that could collapse and block transport routes of strategic importance.

Another new requirement is for building owners who are wanting to do substantial building work to an earthquake-prone building, which requires a building consent, should contact the Building Team for more information.

What are Priority Buildings?

Priority buildings are certain types of earthquake-prone buildings that are considered to have a higher risk because of their construction type, use, or location (based on traffic routes).

Council will make a decision on the priority routes/buildings after pubic consultation. 

What types of buildings may be considered potentially earthquake-prone?

  • An unreinforced masonry (URM) building that has not been strengthened.
  • A building of three or more storeys designed before 1976.
  • A one or two storey building designed before 1935 other than URM and timber buildings.

Who is responsible for identifying potentially earthquake-prone buildings?

Council will undertake a programme to identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings. Buildings will be identified using the methodology prescribed by MBIE.

Council will identify and notify owners of potentially earthquake-prone buildings by:

  • 1 January 2020 for Priority Buildings
  • 1 July 2022 for Other Buildings

Who is responsible for assessing potentially earthquake-prone buildings?

Owners of potentially earthquake-prone buildings will have 12 months from the date they are notified to provide the Council with an engineering assessment.

The engineering assessment must be in accordance with the methodology prescribed by MBIE, to be accepted by the Council. Only a structural engineer can undertake the assessment.

Building owners can apply for one extension of up to 12 months in certain circumstances.

Who is responsible for deciding if a building is earthquake-prone?

The Council will decide (determine) if a building is earthquake-prone, after it has been identified as potentially earthquake-prone and accepted an engineering assessment.

If the Council determines that a building is earthquake-prone, it will:

  • Assign an earthquake rating for the building.
  • Issue the owner with an earthquake-prone building notice.
  • Publish the building information on the national earthquake-prone building register.

The earthquake-prone building register is available to view here:

What do owners of determined earthquake-prone buildings need to do?

Owners who have received an earthquake-prone building notice, must strengthen or demolish their buildings within 7.5 years (Priority Buildings) or 15 years (Other Buildings) from the date of notice.

Owners of heritage buildings can apply for an extension of up to 10 years in certain circumstances.

Owners will require building consents and may require resource consents, to demolish or strengthen their buildings.

What support is available for building owners?

Funding and support is available for owners of classified heritage buildings:

More Information

For more information visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website:

Council is happy to answer any questions you might have regarding earthquake-prone buildings. You can get in touch with the Council team by phoning 06 374 4080 or 06 376 0110, or email