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After the State of Emergency is lifted: What is the Status of a ‘Stickered’ Building in Christchurch? 

by Andrew Monteith Janine Stewart Christine Gordon

Published: March, 2011

Submission: April, 2011

 



Following the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011 a National State of Emergency was declared under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDA 2002). The State of Emergency (SOE) has been extended and remains in force as at the date of this Alert.The purpose of this News Alert is to consider the consequences for building owners and Territorial Authorities (TAs) once the SOE is lifted and the Building Act applies; however it is not a comprehensive review. If you require further advice please contact us to discuss your situation. 


What do the ‘stickers’ mean?

Following the earthquake and pursuant to the CDA 2002 the TA embarks on the task of assessing earthquake affected buildings. They do so with reference to the Building Safety Evaluation During a State of Emergency – Guidelines for Territorial Authorities (adopted after the Gisborne Earthquake in 2007). Under the Guidelines, TAs organise Rapid Assessment teams (comprising of building control officers, structural and civil engineers, architects, experienced building contractors and other experienced building professionals) to place ‘stickers’ on all entrances to buildings to indicate their status following a disaster.



Assessments are carried out at two levels:



Level 1 – identify legal description of the building and assess by external observation only.



Green stickers indicate that there are no restrictions on entry. No further assessment will be undertaken by the TAs but owners are advised to obtain their own building inspection.



Yellow stickers indicate restricted access and that a “level 2” assessment
is required.



Red stickers indicate that the building is unsafe and no one is permitted to enter. A “level 2” assessment is required.





Level 2 – assess large buildings, crucial buildings[1]  or yellow and red stickered buildings from level 1.



The level 2 assessment is more in-depth than level 1. Structural and building service engineers perform this role along with geotechnical engineers (when required). The engineers can downgrade the sticker placed at level one or recommend work to be done under urgency where need to demolish or secure the building to ensure safety.



What is the Legal status of ‘stickers’ after the SOE is lifted?


Once a SOE is lifted the Building Act 2004 (BA 2004) applies.



After the Christchurch earthquake on 4 September 2010, the Governor-General made the Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2010 (Order). Most importantly, the Order provides that yellow and red stickers are deemed to be notices under s 124(1) (b) and (c) of the BA 2004 [2].



Therefore building owners must comply with the yellow and red stickers which operate as notices to fix or face penalties under the BA 2004 for non compliance.



However, the Order is silent as to the status of green stickers under the BA 2004. Therefore it is unclear what legal status green stickers hold after the SOE is lifted.



Role of Territorial Authorities after the SOE  is lifted


The role of a TA  includes determining whether a building is dangerous, earthquake prone or insanitary under the BA 2004.[3] Once it is determined that a building falls into one of these categories, a TA  has the power to do a range of things including: erecting a hoarding or fence; issuing a notice restricting entry for a particular purpose or group of people; and issuing a notice to fix and carry out work to remove the danger. If the owner fails to carry out such work, the TA can carry out the work itself (and the cost of doing so remains a charge on the owners’ land). 



TA Policy going forward for Earthquake, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings


Under the Local Government Act 2002, each TA is required to adopt a Policy on Earthquake-prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings (Policy). The Christchurch City Council (Council) adopted the second version of such a policy immediately after the September earthquake.



At this stage, however the categories and timetable are not set to come into force until July 2012. Therefore, following the February earthquake it remains to be seen how significant the Policy will be and whether the timelines for review are likely to be brought forward.



The Policy targets buildings constructed prior to 1976 as the Policy deems these likely to be ‘earthquake prone’.[4]  The aim of the Policy is to have these buildings strengthened so that they are not ‘earthquake prone’. The Policy estimates that there are potentially 7600 ‘earthquake prone’ buildings, 490 of which are heritage buildings. The Council is set to review its files and
issue notices to landlords according to the categories
of buildings.



Three categories of buildings are outlined in the Policy. Those in category A (which include buildings with special post disaster functions) must be strengthened within 15 years from the date of notification; those in category B (which includes buildings that contain crowds of people or contents of high value to the community) must be strengthened within 20 years; and those in category C (which includes buildings with an importance level of less than 3)[5]  must be strengthened within 30 years.



The earthquake prone status and the date by which strengthening or demolition is required and a record of any notice issued under section 124 of the BA 2004 will be noted on each buildings’ Land Information Memorandum records. These notations are likely
to affect the saleability, value and insurability of
the property.



What’s next for a ‘stickered’ building?


The immediate concerns for building owners will be to ensure the safety of the occupants of the building. Even if a building receives a ‘green sticker’, it would be wise to obtain an independent engineering assessment of the building to ensure safety. Building owners with yellow or red stickers will have to comply with deemed Notices to Fix and any directions from the TAs given under the BA 2004. Building owners should also be mindful of their obligations under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the Health Act 1956, but building owners should contact us to discuss their individual circumstances.



 






 


 


Footnotes:

 




[1]    Such as hospitals.


 



[2]    Section 124 (b) sets out the powers of territorial authorities to attach a notice warning people not to approach the building. Section 124 (c) allows the territorial authority to give the building owner written notice requiring work to be carried out on the building, within a time stipulated in the notice.


 



[3]    See part 2 - subpart 6 of the BA 2004.


 



[4]    As defined in section 122 of the BA 2004.


 



[5]    As defined in AS/NZS 1170.0.2002.


 

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