Earthquake prone buildings

On 1 July 2017 a nationally consistent system for managing earthquake-prone buildings came into effect. It changes the way earthquake-prone buildings are identified, assessed and managed.


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This video by MBIE gives you an introduction to the national system for managing earthquake-prone buildings. It explains why we have the system and how it works.

Earthquake prone buildings-management system

The primary objective of the new system is to protect people from harm. It categorises New Zealand into three seismic risk areas and uses these areas to set time frames for identifying, strengthening or removing earthquake-prone buildings. (Bay of Plenty is a Medium Risk Zone)

It introduces a new category of ‘priority’ buildings in high and medium seismic risk areas that are considered higher risk because of their construction, type, use or location. Priority buildings must be identified and strengthened or removed in half the time available for other buildings in the same seismic risk area.

The system applies to non-residential buildings and larger residential buildings that are two storys or more, have three or more household units or are used as a hostel, boarding house or other form of specialised accommodation.


Under the new system, territorial authorities (councils) are responsible for:

  • Identifying potentially earthquake-prone buildings
  • Notifying building owners
  • Determining if a building is earthquake prone and if so, assigning a rating (based on an engineering assessment)
  • Issuing EPB notices to building owners

Territorial authorities will also have to publish information on buildings they have determined to be earthquake-prone in a national online register hosted by MBIE. The register is a public document and shows information such as:

  • A building’s importance, e.g. whether it has a post-disaster function or has a high occupancy
  • Its age and condition relative to the code to which it was built or previously strengthened

The online register is updated regularly to reflect any strengthening works undertaken by building owners or any buildings newly classified as earthquake-prone.

MBIE will be working with territorial authorities and building professionals over the coming months to help them with the transition to the new system and providing information for building owners.

Earthquake-prone building resources has links to the relevant Acts, regulations, engineering assessment guidelines and the EPB methodology.

The methodology and "The Seismic Assessment of Existing Buildings: Technical Guidelines for Engineering Assessments" are key tools to help territorial authorities and engineers identify, assess and make decisions on potentially earthquake-prone buildings.

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Changes to managing earthquake-prone buildings coming into effect end of the 2019

MBIE has advised changes to the system managing earthquake-prone buildings will come into effect at the end of 2019.

‘As you may be aware, a change to the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings (EPBs) was recently announced by the Minister for Building and Construction, Hon. Jenny Salesa.

This change will make it easier for EPB owners in small towns to undertake modest building work, without having to start seismic strengthening work at the same time.

The purpose of the ‘substantial’ alteration provisions in the EPB system is to promote positive and progressive upgrades of EPBs within the statutory timeframes.

However, the current definition of a substantial alteration is having a disproportionate impact on provincial and small towns where there are many low-value buildings. This discourages modest and progressive building work from being undertaken in these areas.

To be considered ‘substantial’ and mean that seismic strengthening needs to be done at the same time, the value of an alteration will now need to be greater than $150,000. This is in addition to the existing criteria – that the work needs a building consent, and that it (together with other work consented in the last two years) has an estimated value of at least 25 per cent of the building’s value’.

Learn more here.

Buying or selling an earthquake prone building

Whoever purchases the building becomes responsible for the seismic strengthening. It’s recommended that purchasers carry out independent investigations prior to purchasing a property that is likely to be earthquake-prone.

If you need to find out whether a building is earthquake-prone you can approach an engineer to undertake an independent Initial Seismic Assessment (ISA) at your own cost. This will give you a guide as to the strength of the building. The Council maintains the right to review these findings.

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Alterations to an earthquake prone building

If Council receives a building consent application for upgrading or alteration to a building which is confirmed as being earthquake-prone, the building will need to be strengthened to comply as much as is reasonably practicable with the current Building Code.

If you are changing the use of the building, we must be satisfied with the structural and seismic performance of a building when considering the intended change of use. If we are not satisfied, the building will need to be strengthened to comply as much as is reasonably practicable with the current Building Code.

Section 133AT on alterations to earthquake prone buildings comes into effect 13 May 2018. 

This video by Hutt City Council has some useful information about how you can make your home more structurally safe and sound in an earthquake.

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Disagreeing with an earthquake prone classification

 If you disagree with our classification of your building as earthquake-prone, you can provide an engineer’s report in challenge of that decision. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will then make a final, binding determination on whether your building is earthquake-prone. 

The policy affects all types of commercial or public buildings, and residential properties that have two or more storys and contain three or more household units. Buildings that are mainly used for residential purposes are not affected by the policy. Buildings built after 1976 are unlikely to be earthquake prone.

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Last updated: 9 May 2018