Frequently Asked Questions


​​​Last updated 24 May 2019

The following information has been compiled to provide useful information to building owners who will be involved in an assessment and decision‐making process in the near future.

To give effect to the requirements of the Building Act, building owners who have not already done so need to assess the current state of their building. If the building requires strengthening they need to consider their options. It is likely that most building owners will choose to strengthen their building however some may look at options of demolition and redevelopment.

There are a range of factors that will influence a building owner's decision about how to proceed, including costs and timeframes, technical advice about methods for strengthening, market influences including likely financial returns from the investment, intrinsic value of a building, e.g. heritage qualities and/or striking presence in the area.

There will be changes occurring, particularly in the CBD, including businesses temporarily relocating or sharing premises so strengthening works can be carried out, buildings being demolished and new buildings being established.

It is important that building owners have enough information to inform them so they can make good decisions about the future of their buildings. Their final decisions not only impact on them but also the future amenity and function of the whole District.


NBSNew Building Strength
IEP"Initial Evaluation Procedure" which is a high level assessment of a building's potential strength in relation to New Building Strength. It provides an indication of whether a building requires a more detailed assessment (DA) to determine its actual strength, so decisions about whether to remain in or vacate a building should not be made on the basis of the IEP.
DA"Detailed Assessment" is a more detailed engineering assessment carried out on a building once an IEP indicates that it may be potentially earthquake prone.


You can download a printable version of the complete FAQ's below. Last updated 24 May 2019.

EQ Prone Building Policy FAQs May 2019​ (PDF, 231KB)

1. What is the Earthquake Prone Building Programme?

 The Programme addresses Grey District Council's methods for fulfilling its legal obligations under the Building Act, in respect to primarily commercial, communal and industrial buildings (and residential facilities which are two or more stories and contain three or more household units):

Further information is available on MBIE's website at

Council has completed its preliminary list of potentially earthquake prone buildings. This list is a 'living document' in that buildings may be added or removed from the list as further information comes to light. The Council has also sent out several letters to all those persons that Council has been able to determine own or have a registered lease of those properties. There has also been an article in the rates newsletter and several media reports regarding Council progress and actions. Building owners are now required to provide a seismic assessment which meets the criteria set by the Act by 20 May 2020.

Buildings which failed to meet the standards required in our Policy for IEP's will be also required to have a Detailed Engineering Evaluation (DEE) by 20 May 2020. Council no longer accepts IEPs.

Alternatively, upon advice from their Engineer(s), building Owners may also opt to negate the requirement to obtain an assessment and proceed directly to either applying for a Building Consent to either strengthen or demolish their building(s). Owners choosing this option must complete the works by 20 May 2020.

 Building owners now have until 20 May 2020 to provide to the Council, either:

  1. An engineering assessment of the building (or a previous assessment) undertaken by a suitably qualified structural engineer that complies with the requirements of the EPB Methodology. This will be used to determine if the building is earthquake prone or not.
  2. Evidence of a factual error in the basis on which the Council has identified this building as potentially earthquake prone.
  3. Notification that you do not intend to provide an engineering assessment of the building. 

If you are unable to meet the due date for providing the engineering assessment (for example, because of a shortage of people qualified to conduct engineering assessments), you can apply for a time extension of up to 12 months. You must apply for the extension no later than 20 March 2020.  When applying for the extension please clearly explain your reasons for Council to consider. If the extension is approved, no further time extensions can be granted. 

If you advise us that you do not intend to provide an engineering assessment or do not provide any required information to us by the due date, the Council will proceed as if it had determined the building is earthquake prone and issue a notice (in the form prescribed for the lowest rating category of earthquake-prone building) in accordance with section 133AL(4) of the Building Act. The Council may also obtain an engineering assessment of the building or part and recover the costs from you.

Once all the information has been reviewed, the Council will notify you of the decision on the building's earthquake-prone status.  If the building is determined as earthquake prone, or the Council proceeds as if it had determined the building to be earthquake prone, the Council would then issue an earthquake-prone building notice under section 133AL of the Building Act to you as the owner and to any persons or organisations with an interest in the building. A copy of the earthquake-prone building notice needs to be fixed in a prominent position on the building. This will specify the date by which you will be obligated to undertake seismic work so that the building is no longer earthquake prone. 

The building will also be entered into the register of earthquake-prone buildings: 

Information about the potentially earthquake-prone status of the building, including the letter, is available on request and will be included in land and project information memoranda (LIMs and PIMs).

A copy of the EPB Methodology and other information about earthquake-prone buildings is available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website: 

2. What do Importance Levels mean for building design?

The following comments relate to buildings that are designed to meet in full the requirements of legislation, regulations, codes and standards. This is often expressed as 100% New Building Standard (100%NBS). It should be noted that buildings are not designed to be earthquake proof. The level of resistance to earthquakes of a building depends on the Importance Level (IL) of the building.

  • Tables 3.1 and 3.2 of Australia/New Zealand Standard for Structural design actions AS/NZS 1170.0:2002, outline the Importance Levels and explain how they are applied.
  • To summarize the meaning of this standard, most buildings in the CBD would be categorized as Importance Level 2. This is also known as buildings of "ordinary importance". Exceptions would be the likes of the Regent Theatre which would be categorized as an Importance Level 3 building assuming it has a capacity of more than 300 people. Buildings with a post disaster function like Council chambers (as an emergency operations centre), and the police or fire services would probably be Importance level 4.The Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand's web site under their Publications section has a number of articles relating to Earthquake Facts for people who would like more information on this topic.

The following link will to take you to the search page for publications:

3. What level of earthquake strengthening should I provide for my building?

There are a number of factors that will influence the cost of strengthening a building such as age, how well constructed, condition, materials used, building foundations, and the shape of the building. The underlying ground conditions may also play a significant part in how the building will behave. Generally if the building is unreinforced masonry brick it is likely to be more expensive to earthquake strengthen than say a reinforced concrete building or a steel portal frame building.

For an Importance Level 2 building the minimum requirement under Council's policy is 34% of the New Building Standard. There are some exceptions to this for instance Historic Buildings which are strongly recommended to be strengthened to 67%NBS.

If the building remains at less than 34%, it means it is earthquake prone and would be likely to collapse causing injury or death to persons in the building or to persons on any other property in a moderate earthquake. A moderate earthquake is defined in the Building Regulations as an earthquake that would generate shaking at the site of the building that is of the same duration as, but that is one‐third as strong as, the earthquake shaking (determined by normal measures of acceleration, velocity and displacement) that would be used to design a new building at the site.

So to put the other way, if the building is strengthened to 34% or more it means that the building is not likely to be earthquake prone and is not likely to fall down. However the primary function during an earthquake event is life preservation, so to put the other way, if the building is strengthened to 34% or more it means that the building is not likely to be earthquake prone and is not likely to fall down. However the primary function during an earthquake event is life preservation, so while the building is unlikely to fall down if strengthened to 34% it is likely that it will sustain significant damage and is likely that it may need to be demolished or cost a significant amount of money to repair. Strengthening the building to 67% or 100% means that the level of damage will be less as the building has been strengthened to these higher levels.

The decision comes down to a question of affordability and risk. With respect to these aspects the insurance industry may also influence what levels strengthening are required. Premiums may be higher for buildings that are strengthened to lower standards.

It is recommended that you talk to your structural engineer about the options. Only you will know how important the building is to you and whether it is essential that you retain the building or not. The location of your building may be equally important. It may be more cost effective to demolish the building and erect a new one on the site. Alternatively, it may be more cost effective to strengthen to a higher standard and accept that repairs will be necessary. Or if location is less important it may be cost effective to relocate.

4. How do I find an Engineer?

 Contact details for Engineers can be found at the following locations:

Ensure your engineer is a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng) as Council will not accept reports from non CP.

Engineers with higher levels of experience with earthquake prone buildings may be able to offer alternatives for strengthening buildings which those with less experience do not. Experience does vary and peer reviews of engineer reports for the same building are common.

5. What other aspects of the Building Act and NZ Building Code need to be considered if earthquake strengthening is proposed to an existing building?

If a building Owner is proposing to undertake building works to strengthen an existing structure, then they will need to consider, amongst other clauses, the requirements of Section 112 of the Building Act 2004.

The building owners appointed design professional or other suitably competent person should be able to advise on the specifics and extent of what is required.

Council (acting as a Building Consent Authority) must not grant a building consent for the alteration of an existing building, or part of an existing building, unless it is satisfied that after the alteration the building will comply as nearly as reasonably practicable with the provisions of the NZ Building Code that relate to FIRE SAFETY and ACCESS AND FACILITIES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.

The building will also need to comply with the other provisions of the NZ Building Code to at least the same extent as before the alteration.

6. So does that mean I need to install a lift?

There may be a requirement to install an accessible lift as a result of undertaking earthquake strengthening building works on an existing building of two or more storeys in height. It depends on a range of factors such as how many people will use areas on the first floor and above.  A detailed article has been posted onto the Council website (dated 25 June 2015) which details for building Owners what they need to consider and comply with. The article can be accessed through here. However, the requirements for existing buildings are that such requirements need to be reasonably practicable.

7. Will there be Council subsidies for Building Consents or Resource Consents?

 No, the cost of obtaining consents rests with a building owner.

8. If I decide to strengthen my building, will I be required to meet any District Plan requirements?

Buildings within the CBD (commercial or industrial zoning):

If you are not changing the footprint of your building and/or the activity carried out in your building i.e. no additional floor area is being developed externally or internally, then there are unlikely to be any District Plan requirements (than those that already applied when the building was established).

If you are intending to change the footprint of your building and/or the activity (for example a shop to a restaurant) carried out in your building, then please contact the Council's Planning Services department to discuss your proposal. District Plan standards require that a parking contribution be paid to the Council on a cash in lieu basis, vehicle access must be from a service lane (where available) and buildings must have a veranda.

Buildings in other parts of the District (variety of zoning):

As per above, the Council will be looking at whether you propose to change the activity that will be carried out in your building and/or to change the scale of your operation. If your business is in a Residential, RuralResidential, Rural or Township zone you may require resource consent in order to undertake some types of changes. Please contact the Council’s Planning Services department to discuss your proposal.

9. What other agencies do I need to contact?

The Historic Places Trust is available to give technical advice about options for strengthening, adaptive re‐ use and other options if your building is listed as a heritage item in the District Plan and/or registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

  • Contact the NZHPT Heritage Adviser Planning, Mike Vincent, 03 363 1886.

 Most sites within the Greymouth CBD and other parts of town, and many other sites in the District, were initially occupied prior to 1900. Therefore. if you are considering strengthening works or demolition of either the whole or part of a building, the Historic Places Trust (HPT) must be informed in advance about proposed earthworks/excavation on the site. You may require permission from HPT in order to be able to proceed.

  • Contact the NZHPT Southern Regional Office Regional Archaeologist: 03 357 9615.

 If your building is a listed heritage item (in the District Plan and/or by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust) then you may also need to obtain Resource Consent from Grey District Council prior to undertaking works.

10. I'd like to know what other building owners are doing and what the future of the CBD is going to be as it may influence my decision.

The Council is tracking the number of engineer's assessments that have been supplied to Council i.e. the number of IEPs and detailed assessments, and the number who have stated their intention to strengthen or to demolish. This information is available on a monthly basis as follows:

It is encouraging to see that a number of buildings owners have already started to strengthen their buildings. Some of which already meet the minimum standard and are strengthening to higher levels (67% or 100%) to satisfy their tenants and insurance requirements.

11. I have a listed Heritage building &/or a building within a heritage area; can I get any specialist help?

Yes. Heritage New Zealand (HNZ) have produced written information about strengthening options for various types of buildings and they will also provide technical advice regarding listed buildings, contact:

Southern Regional Office
64 Gloucester Street|
PO Box 4403
Christchurch Mail Centre 8140
Phone + 64 3 357 9629
Fax + 64 3 358 9628

Email: or for earthquake-related enquiries

12. My building is old but is not a listed Heritage building; can I get any specialist help?

Yes. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) have produced written information about strengthening options for various types of buildings, this will be useful even if your building is not a listed item. Contact:

Southern Regional Office
64 Gloucester Street
PO Box 4403
Christchurch Mail Centre 8140
Phone + 64 3 357 9629
Fax + 64 3 358 9628

Email: or for earthquake-related enquiries

13. I've been through the engineer assessment process and I've decided to demolish my building; what are the next steps?

Please contact the Council as you may require:

  • Building Consent for demolition (depending on some specific criteria, a BC may not be required. Some work may be exempt under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004)
  • Resource Consent if you have a listed Heritage building
  • Traffic and site management
  • Services to the property to be stopped (water, sewer)

 Please contact your Service Providers to organize power and phone disconnections.

You must advise the New Zealand Historic Places Trust about any proposed demolition or earthworks on a site within the Greymouth CBD, or on a site in the District that was initially occupied prior to 1900. The ground underneath your building may be an archaeological site that the Trust would be interested in surveying. They will provide advice about this process, contact:

Southern Regional Office
64 Gloucester Street
PO Box 4403
Christchurch Mail Centre 8140
Phone + 64 3 357 9629
Fax + 64 3 358 9628

Email: or for earthquake-related enquiries

14. What is the Council doing in the CBD?

A few years ago, Council carried out extensive public consultation on the renewal of our town centre, the outcome of which was the Urban Design Framework for CBD Renewal developed by Opus. This framework identified a range of projects to be implemented as a means of stimulating the local economy. The Town Square/Shared Street project was the first of these projects which has been implemented.

Even with the Urban Design Framework in place, there remained a need to provide for a cohesive approach to the CBD in the face of a general downturn in the economy and other expected changes in the future. Important factors influencing the CBD include a combination of internet buying, changing buyer approaches, the expected closure of some businesses in the face of these factors and the need to earthquake strengthen properties, with many land lease renewals falling due. 

Council were successful in securing funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund for a CBD Redevelopment Plan that builds upon the work already done by Opus and provides a framework with a regeneration focus that will see the CBD develop into a vibrant, progressive and interesting place, despite the challenges it is facing.

A Draft CBD Redevelopment Plan has been developed and consulted on in April 2019. A final plan is due to be confirmed shortly.

If you have questions about the CBD Redevelopment Plan please contact:

15. Can I sell my building without it being assessed or if it has been assessed, without it being strengthened?

Yes. If the Earthquake Prone Buildings Policy is relevant to a building then the Council will advise potential purchasers about this on a Land Information Memorandum (LIM). A seller must also disclose all relevant information about the building to a buyer.

While you still own your building the terms and timeframes of the Policy apply. Should you sell the building the terms and timeframes will apply to the new owner. There is no lag in timeframes so it will be important to ensure that appropriate progress is made to adhere to the Policy. Any non‐compliance could impact on the sale of the building.

16.  I'm doing work on my building to meet the policy requirements, how do I book car parks in the CBD for my contractors?

Council has set up a system where you can temporarily book public parks for works to a building. Adequate notice is required and full details of where and when. See the following link for the relevant forms and process.

17.  How will strengthening affect my insurance?

Some insurance companies are offering discounts on premiums and/or excesses for buildings strengthened to over a specified level. You will need to talk to your insurance company to find out more.

18.  What are the costs of strengthening an existing building versus building new?

 A Quantity Surveyor can provide advice on costs associated with strengthening, demolition and building new.

There is a New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors, the website is The NZIQS website lists all the registered members across the whole country, and there's a specific list for the central area of the South Island (including the West Coast).

New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors
PO Box 10469
The Terrace Wellington 6143
New Zealand
 Tel: 0800 469 477, email:

19.  How many buildings is the Council closing down?

We are not intending to close any buildings. Ultimately, it is the building owner's responsibility to minimise any risk to occupants, the public and property posed by their building.

20.  I am a tenant of a potentially earthquake prone building, what are my rights?

This is essentially an issue between the owner and tenant. Potentially earthquake prone is just that, it is not confirmed. It is not deemed earthquake prone until such time as a detailed engineering assessment is undertaken by a CPEng Engineer confirming that the building does not meet the required strengthening requirements.

As the tenant of a potentially earthquake prone building you may choose vacate the building but must do so in accordance with any tenancy agreement.

The tenant may also request the owner get an engineer's report done but the owner is only required to do so within the timeframes outlined in the Act.

All employers occupying an earthquake prone building will have responsibilities under health and safety legislation.

If the tenant has reason to believe the building may be an imminent danger to people in and around it, they can contact Council's Building control team who will assess it in terms of the 'Dangerous Buildings' provisions of the Building Act 2004.

21. What happens when I have given Council my assessment and it is less than 34% NBS?

Assessments are reviewed by Council and if they do not meet the minimum requirements as set out in the Act the owner is issued an EPB (Earthquake Prone Building) Notice under the Building Act 2004 which will require the building be strengthened or demolished within the timeframes in the Act (currently 7 ½ years for Priority Buildings and 15 years for all other buildings). ​​

Page reviewed: 01 Jun 2019 9:23am