Christchurch council moves belatedly - in temporary HQ

Christchurch City Council has belatedly revised its Earthquake Prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy at an extraordinary meeting held in a suburban service centre because its own newly refurbished $113 million civic building is out of action.

It only applies to those buildings which have suffered damage in the recent earthquake and which will require building consent to repair (there are about 960 such buildings but the undamaged ones have probably passed a major test last weekend anyway).

Previously, the policy was going to require buildings to aim to be strengthened to 33% of the building code as part of the repair process. The percentage is now 67%.

The new policy may have the unintended consequence of making buildings too expensive to repair even while heritage enthusiasts clamour for building owners to desist from demolition. The new rules make it more tempting for owners to send in the bulldozers.

Meanwhile, questions remain about why the new city council-Ngai Tahu joint venture civic building is not functioning.

City council staff were forced to requisition the Art Galley over the road from the civic building to begin work on city welfare and provision of services such as power and water.

By contrast, the systems, and the Civil Defence headquarters and staff at Environment Canterbury carried the day. The rapid response team of Civil Defence and Environment Canterbury staff swung into the action they have long rehearsed and were on the job 10 minutes after the earthquake struck.

Environment Canterbury and Civil Defence staff operate out of the specially strengthened and provisioned “bunker” in the basement of the Environment Canterbury building in Kilmore Street. They were coordinating a regional response before daybreak and providing assistance to Canterbury district councils and the city – the organisations that recently clamoured for Environment Canterbury councillors to be replaced by Government-appointed commissioners on allegations that Environment Canterbury was a dysfunctional organisation.

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All other earthquake-prone councillors will be consulting the Christchurch City Council for safe building advice.

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