What we're doing about earthquake-prone buildings (EPB) including information for building owners and visitors.

Let us know if you have a query about an earthquake-prone building

In July 2017 new rules for dealing with earthquake-prone buildings, including the main changes and building owner roles and responsibilities came into effect. 

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016(external link) inserted provisions into the Building Act 2004 (external link)for how earthquake-prone buildings are identified and addressed.

Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016

View the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016(external link)

Main points

  • There is a national register(external link) for all earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand. 
  • The country is divided into three seismic risk areas – high, medium and low. Christchurch is in the high seismic risk area.
  • There is a category of buildings identified as priority buildings, which have a shorter timeframe to undertake the required seismic work. Examples of priority buildings include:
    • Hospitals and other buildings used by emergency services.
    • Buildings that are likely to be needed in an emergency as an emergency shelter/centre.
    • Education buildings occupied by at least 20 people (including early childhood centres, schools, private training and tertiary institutes).
    • Refer to section 133AE(external link), Building Act 2004 for the full meaning of priority building.

What this means for priority buildings in Christchurch

If the Council issues an earthquake-prone building (EPB) notice for a priority building, the owner must complete seismic work (either by strengthening or demolition) within 7.5 years of the date of the first EPB notice. Refer to Section 133AM(external link).

What this means for other buildings in Christchurch

If the Council issues an EPB notice for other buildings, the owner must complete seismic work on the building (either by strengthening or demolition) within 15 years of the date of the notice. Refer to Section 133AM(external link).

Further information

Earthquake-prone buildings notices

When the Council issues an earthquake-prone building (EPB) notice it must be attached to the building in a prominent place or adjacent to the building. The Council may require the owner to attach the EPB notice. If the notice goes missing or becomes illegible then the owner must notify the Council who will issue a replacement notice.

The notice informs the public that they are entering and using a building that is earthquake-prone and that it may suffer damage in a moderate earthquake. It is an offence to fail to attach the notice correctly or fail to notify the Council when the notice goes missing or becomes illegible. Refer to section 133AP(external link) and section 133AU(external link)

Council may also impose safety requirements on an earthquake-prone building under section 133AR(external link). This may require a hoarding or fence to be erected and a notice attached warning people not to approach the building.

Notice received

If you have received an EPB notice from the Council indicating that your building has been assessed as earthquake-prone and you do not agree with this assessment or have completed strengthening work, please send your engineering assessment or completion documentation to DEEs@ccc.govt.nz.

One of our engineers will review the information providedIf our engineer’s review agrees with your information we will remove your building from the EPB Register.

If our engineer's review disagrees with your information we will contact you to let you know that your building remains on the EPB register and the EPB notice will continue to apply.


Where to attach an earthquake-prone building notice

Owners of earthquake-prone buildings must attach the earthquake-prone building notice in a prominent place on, or adjacent to the building.

Building owners are required to notify the Council if the earthquake-prone building notice is no longer displayed or becomes illegible.

If you require additional or replacement notices, please email dees@ccc.govt.nz.

Refer to relevant Sections 133AP - 133AU Building Act 2004: If the notice is not displayed in a prominent place, building owners are liable to a fine of up to $50,000 (Individual) and $150,000 (Body Corporate). The council will be undertaking inspections from time to time to ensure notices are being displayed as required.

  • Notices must be displayed so people entering, approaching, or passing the building can clearly see them. Notices should be displayed at each entrance and facing the street.
  • Notices should preferably be fixed to the inside of windows facing out so that they are not affected by weather - Ideally these would be displayed at eye level but can be displayed at the lower corner of a window (but at least 500mm off the ground) so that they do not obscure window displays etc.
  • For exterior plaster and masonry surfaces a board may need to be installed for the notice to attach to, alternately printing the notice onto a material such as core-flute and fixing this to the building could be considered.
  • Additional notices displayed in internal lobbies should be located on the wall visible as the door is opened, at eye level.

Example 1

A suburban block of shops with businesses or apartments on the upper floor.

  • The notice should be displayed at each ground floor entrance - so that it is clear that each shop is part of the overall earthquake-prone building.
  • A copy of the notice should also be displayed inside the lobby which accesses the upper floor.

Example 2

A block of apartments, which share a common access lobby

  • The notice should be displayed on the front of the building adjoining the main access A copy of the notice should also be displayed inside the lobby which accesses the apartments.

Example 3

A block of residential flats each with a separate entrance

  • The notice should be displayed on the front of the building at the main access.
  • A copy of the notice should be displayed at the entrance of each flat

How the Council can help

Seismic work, either strengthening or demolition, will generally require approval from the Council. Please contact us before starting any work to find out if building consent or resource consent is required. 

Heritage buildings

The Council can help owners with the seismic strengthening of listed heritage buildings.

The Heritage Team offers free advice(external link), including exploring options for work that balances the owners' needs for continued functional use of the building with appropriate conservation methodologies.

Some strengthening methods have more of an impact on heritage fabric and values than others. Usually, there is more than one option available. Sometimes a less intrusive strengthening method can also be less expensive. The Heritage Team has experience with what has worked well in other heritage buildings.

Strengthening works to listed heritage buildings may require Resource Consent.

Owners of heritage items listed in the District Plan are eligible to apply for funding from the Council’s Heritage Incentive Grants Fund. The Central City Landmark grants support the retention, repair and upgrade of key landmark heritage buildings within the Central City.

Grants may be available to assist with repairs, seismic strengthening and building code compliance upgrades to ensure ongoing use of the building. Initial contact should be made to the Heritage team on 03 941 8999.

Partnership approvals service

The partnership approvals service provides case management support to a wide range of projects across Christchurch.  The team helps property owners, their specialists and contractors to satisfy requirements for consenting approvals and compliance with less fuss.

If you’re interested in saving time and being well prepared, check out the information on Partnership Approvals to see if your project qualifies.

Building owners actions after an earthquake

Building owners need to develop their own policy  and procedures for what to do after a significant earthquake. All tenants need to be made aware of these procedures and know what to do when an event occurs.

Anyone running a business is required by law to provide a safe work environment.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link) does not set a minimum standard, rather it says that all reasonable practicable steps need to be taken to remove or minimise the risk from identified hazards. 

Following a significant earthquake, the Council recommends building owners have their buildings assessed for potential structural damage that may have been caused by the earthquake. 

The Council recommends the following four-step process to ensure your building is safe after an earthquake.

Step one

Initial assessment

  • An initial assessment by building owner or manager.  You will need a further assessment if you find issues due to earthquake damage.
  • You should hire a chartered professional structural engineer if there is any doubt.
  • Don't enter the building if there is any concern about the structural integrity of the building. Seek advice from a chartered professional structural engineer and advise occupants that the building is not to be occupied and move to step two.

Step two

Engineer inspection

  • A chartered professional structural engineer inspects key elements of the building structure. This may include invasive methods. It is recommended that the same engineer/engineering company does this for continuity and familiarity of the building.
  • The buildings should not be occupied until the engineer declares that it is safe to occupy.

Step three

Check building systems

  • Once the structural engineer has declared the building safe to occupy, organise inspections of building services and systems (for example, fire safety systems, electrical installations, water supply, lifts, heating and air conditioning). The inspections should be by suitably qualified persons. In the case of specified systems, the independently qualified person (IQP).
  • If any building services or systems are damaged, you may not be able to occupy the building until they are repaired.
  • Any other damage to the building should be repaired at this stage.
  • A final check is done to ensure that the building is safe to occupy.

Step four

All clear to occupy

  • Building is cleared and fit to reoccupy.

Earthquake-prone buildings register

The earthquake-prone building register(external link) is part of the framework for managing earthquake-prone buildings(external link) that came into force on 1 July 2017.

The register is a national registered and managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). It enables councils and the Ministry to record and update information about buildings or parts of buildings that have been determined to be earthquake-prone. 

The list of buildings on the register will change as further buildings are identified and added, or as buildings are strengthened or demolished.

Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy

The Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy 2018 replaced the Council’s Earthquake-prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy 2010.

The Council has the responsibility to  protect people from the risks unsafe buildings may pose.

Section 131(external link), Building Act 2004 requires all councils to have adopted a policy on dangerous and insanitary buildings within its district. The Council adopted its policy in December 2018 and is required to review this policy every 5 years. Note, earthquake-prone buildings are now covered by sections 133AA - 133AY of the Building Act.

The policy outlines how the Council undertakes its responsibilities under the Act in regard to, dangerous and insanitary buildings. This may include affected buildings, which are buildings adjacent to or adjoining a dangerous building and affected by the danger that building may pose.

Other useful links

Licensed building practitioner

A Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP)(external link) is a tradesperson you can trust to know how to build it right. LBPs have been assessed as being competent to do the type of building they hold a licence for. LBPs have to show certain skills, give proof of practical experience and comply with the building code to get their licence. They also have to gain enough skills maintenance points every two years to keep it.

There are a number of licences that can be held by a tradesperson. These each specialise in an area of the building process. These licences are design, carpentry, foundation, roofing, brick and block laying, and external plastering. Registered Architects and Chartered Professional Engineers are automatically treated as design LBPs and you can employ them to do any Restricted Building Work design.

Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board

The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board (PGDB)(external link) is the statutory body that regulates these trades. While New Zealand law allows anyone to purchase fittings and appliances it is illegal to do restricted sanitary plumbing, gasfitting or drainlaying work without authorisation. Ask for the card. You should ask to see the current authorisation card of a tradesperson – this is confirmation that the plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying work will be completed by someone qualified or competently supervised.

A public register of all certifying and licensed tradespeople is available at www.pgdb.co.nz(external link). You can use the search function to find the contact details of specific individuals or to find the names and contact details of certifying or licensed tradespeople in your area. If you are building or renovating find out all you need to know and obtain the handy consumer guide at the Board’s website.

Quantity surveyor

A quantity surveyor(external link) is a person responsible for figuring out just what a construction project is going to cost. They aim to keep projects on budget, among many other roles. The New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NZIQS) is the professional organisation in New Zealand for quantity surveyors, estimators, cost managers and cost consultants in the construction industry.