Mt Albert’s commercial landlords are about to get news they could do without – the demand to spend big money to reduce the risk of earthquake damage in a shake that may never come.
Auckland is not on a fault line and the risk of a serious earthquake here is low, but around 40 commercial buildings in Mt Albert will need strengthening work to meet new Government guidelines. It’s likely some multi-storey residential buildings are also in the mix.
Auckland Council has assessed 8000 buildings across the supercity and fewer than 2000 of them – older places built before the modern earthquake code – have been identified as posing potential problems.
Mt Albert landlords will be among the first to get the formal letter outlining their options, which will be sent over the next six weeks or so. They can then choose to accept the council’s seismic rating or engage a structural engineer to carry out a new assessment within 12 months.
The required strengthening work will be expensive, but Auckland’s low-risk profile means there’s no hurry: landlords have 35 years to meet the guidelines.
Denise Whelan, the council’s acting manager of building consents capability, says owners who accept the seismic rating will be required to place an “earthquake prone building” (EPB) notice prominently on their buildings.
She would not list the local buildings requiring strengthening, but noted: “Being confirmed as earthquake-prone does not mean a building is dangerous or unsafe to occupy or use.”
However, most of the Mt Albert commercial buildings (pictured here before the upgrade began) caught up in the legislation are likely to be in the village strip.
The cost of hefty repair work will impact to some extent on values and, with the upgrade two months from completion, may increase the appeal of selling to a developer keen to explore the new “build-’em-high” zoning under the Unitary Plan.
A multi-storey line of buildings on both sides of the strip – with retail/commercial at ground level and apartments above – is the vision of planners for the village strip. But nothing is going to happen overnight.
Linda Cooper, chair of the council’s regulatory committee, says the new legislation applies mainly to commercial buildings and residential buildings of two or more storeys and three or more household units; or hostels, boarding houses or other specialised accommodation.
In particular, it identifies unreinforced masonry buildings and pre-1976 buildings three or more storeys high as potentially more likely to be earthquake prone.