SOME owners of buildings in the Opotiki town centre will receive letters in coming weeks advising that their properties may be earthquake prone “priority buildings”.

Owners of unreinforced masonry buildings will be required to obtain a structural engineering assessment on their buildings within the next year.

In September, the Opotiki District Council sought feedback from the public on whether the community thought four thoroughfares should be adopted as priority and whether there were others that should be considered.

The four streets, Church, King, Elliottt and Kelly, have some of the highest pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the town and a number of unreinforced masonry buildings.

The council received no feedback from the public and formally adopted the key thoroughfares at a meeting on Tuesday.

All the unreinforced masonry buildings in these areas are now considered priority buildings under Government legislation and will need to be assessed by a qualified structural engineer within the next year, with any work required to be carried out within seven-and-a-half years.

Councillor Debi Hocart asked planning and regulatory group manager Gerard McCormack how this would affect Opotiki’s De Luxe Theatre.

Mr McCormack said the Opotiki Community Theatre Trust had already had a seismic assessment done on the building and was now working proactively to raise funds to strengthen the theatre.

“If building owners are proactive about creating a plan going forward, we as council will get in behind them and help,” he said.

Mr McCormack said yesterday that council’s role was defined by the legislation and would be ensuring that the legal requirements were met.

“Most building owners have known this is coming for quite a few years so I don’t think it will come as a surprise,” he said.

“But many don’t know the status of their buildings and I know some are worried that it will be a big or expensive issue. But it is all just guesswork until inspections are done. Once the buildings have been inspected, we’ll collectively know how big the issue is and we can go from there.

“From here, the ball is in the building owner’s court to start to take some action – get a structural engineer to assess their building, keep council in the loop so we know it’s been done, and get strengthening works if they are needed.

“The deadlines set out in the legislation start kicking in quite seriously, so if building owners are in any doubt at all, they should come and talk to us to make sure they are on track.”

He said at the moment the council was focused on priority buildings, but that didn’t mean other building owners were off the hook; they would benefit from starting their own investigations now.

He encourages commercial building owners in the district to get up to speed with the legislation and check what it means for them and their building.

Mr McCormack said safety was at the core of the earthquake-prone building legislation but there would be wider benefits for the community as buildings were brought up to standard.

“We have been speaking to a lot of tenants and a few building owners recently as part of our project to improve the town centre, get up to speed with the earthquake legislation and things like the business breakfasts,” he said.

“The clear feedback that we have been getting is that the town’s appearance is tired. It certainly sounds like things aren’t easy for some tenants and renters in CBD buildings – some buildings haven’t been well-maintained, or the facilities are poor and run down.

“We’d like to see this earthquake legislation as an opportunity to get building owners improving things on the inside and out, improve our town centre and make it a place we all want to spend more time in.”

Affected thoroughfares

  • Church Street from Richard Street to Kelly Street
  • King Street from Potts Avenue to St John Street
  • Elliott Street from Potts  Avenue to St John Street
  • Kelly Street from Potts Avenue to the Kelly Street cemetery