Earthquake-prone Buildings

1. Understanding The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016

The information on this page is intended to let you know about the changes in legislation relating to earthquake-prone buildings. As Horowhenua District Council moves forward with its processes this section will be updated to reflect actions taken and next steps.

Horowhenua District Council has sourced the following information directly from, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Building Performance website, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2. New system for managing earthquake-prone buildings

New Zealand is extremely prone to seismic activity and ensuring the safety of people is paramount. Buildings need to be safe for occupants and users.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 introduced major changes to the way earthquake-prone buildings are identified and managed under the Building Act. It uses knowledge learned from past earthquakes in New Zealand and overseas.

The system which came into affect on 1 July 2017 is consistent across the country and focuses on the most vulnerable buildings in terms of people's safety.

It categorises New Zealand into three seismic risk areas and sets time frames for identifying and taking action to strengthen or remove earthquake-prone buildings.

Horowhenua has been identified as a High Risk Seismic area which affects the timeframes for identification and remediation of Earthquake-prone buildings. 

More information can be found on the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment's (MBIE) Building Performance Managing earthquake prone buildings page.

3. What Earthquake-prone means

A building, or part of a building, is earthquake prone if it will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake, and if it were to collapse, would do so in a way that is likely to cause injury or death to persons in or near the building or on any other property, or damage to any other property.

Council will determine if a building or part of a building is earthquake prone using the EPB methodology, a document which sets out how territorial authorities identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings, how engineers undertake engineering assessments, and how territorial authorities determine whether a building or part is earthquake prone, and if it is, its earthquake rating.

More information can be found on:

4. Why buildings are managed for earthquake risk

Experience from Christchurch and overseas has shown that the failure of earthquake-prone buildings, or parts, can endanger lives. Thirty-nine people lost their lives when unreinforced masonry buildings failed during the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. Earthquake risk reduction is a priority in New Zealand.

New Zealand has had a progressive approach to improving standards for new buildings and earthquake-resistant design since design standards for buildings were first introduced into New Zealand in 1935, following the Napier earthquake.

Advancements in the knowledge of seismicity, material properties and the response of buildings in earthquake shaking has resulted in progressive refinements to requirements for the design and detail of buildings.

The system introduced on 1 July 2017 provides leadership and direction on how to manage the risks to public safety posed by existing buildings, including those constructed prior to the introduction of certain design standards.

More information can be found on MBIE's Building Performance Managing earthquake prone buildings page - Why buildings are managed for earthquake risk

5. How the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings works

The system for managing earthquake-prone buildings targets buildings and parts of buildings that pose the greatest risk to public safety or other property in a moderate earthquake event.

Helpful information  about the system can be viewed below:

6. What the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings means for you

Knowing and understanding the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings is important for everyone. The focus of the system is protecting people from harm in an earthquake.

Read more about roles and responsibilities below.

Territorial authorities and earthquake-prone buildings

Council plays a key role in the new system for managing earthquake-prone buildings. 

Engineers, other building professionals and earthquake-prone buildings

Engineers will be commissioned by building owners to undertake assessments of potentially earthquake-prone buildings. Engineers and other building professionals will need to advise and assist building owners, who must obtain assessments and complete seismic work on their earthquake-prone buildings within set time frames.

Owners of potentially earthquake-prone buildings 

Owners of buildings must take action within set time frames if their building is considered to be potentially earthquake prone or determined as earthquake prone and an EPB notice is issued.

Users of earthquake-prone buildings

If you use or occupy an earthquake-prone building, or live or work in an area where there are earthquake-prone buildings, the system will give you better information about how a building is expected to perform in an earthquake.

7. Who does what

Territorial authorities, engineers and buildings owners have key responsibilities for managing earthquake-prone buildings (EPBs). This is outlined in the diagram below.

Who does what when managing earthquake-prone buildings

Earthquake-prone buildings diagram.

8. Available Funding

There are several sources of funding for earthquake strengthening projects. You may be able to access more than one of these funding sources, although conditions are likely to apply.

Horowhenua District Council Heritage Incentives

The Heritage Fund is for projects that conserve or restore the heritage value or character of a property that is recognised under the Horowhenua District Plan for its historical significance.

Eligible to apply are: 

  • owners of property listed in Schedule 2 of the Operative Horowhenua District Plan; and
  • owners of property within the Town Centre Heritage and Character Areas of Foxton and Shannon (as shown on Planning Maps 15A and 21A of the Operative Horowhenua District Plan)

More information is available on our Heritage Incentives page.

Heritage EQUIP funding

Heritage EQUIP offers funding towards seismic strengthening work for heritage buildings.

To be eligible for funding, applications need to meet the following criteria:

The building must be privately owned

The building must be privately owned. The applicant must be the owner or part-owner of the heritage building, or give evidence that they have the authority to submit the application on the owner’s behalf.

The building must be earthquake-prone, as defined by law

The building must be considered earthquake-prone by your council, under the Building Act. If you have no council notification that your building is earthquake-prone, you will need to provide an assessment of the building’s ‘earthquake resistance capacity’ from an engineer.

The building must have heritage value
  • Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand Heritage List or
  • Category 2 historic place on the New Zealand Heritage List and also in an area considered medium or high risk, as defined in the Act.

If your building is listed on another category of the New Zealand Heritage List (as a wāhi tapu, wāhi tūpuna, wāhi tapu area or historic area), or scheduled on a district plan, it may still be considered for a Heritage EQUIP grant. Your grant application for these buildings would need to include independent verification of the building’s heritage values. 

How to apply and more information is available on the Heritage EQUIP funding site.

Heritage New Zealand National Heritage Preservation Incentive Fund

Heritage New Zealand administers the National Heritage Preservation Incentive Fund. It provides funding to encourage the conservation of nationally significant heritage places.

The fund is open to private owners and gives priority to heritage places of national significance where conservation work is planned and could be improved through extra funding.

Heritage New Zealand and Heritage EQUIP funding managers coordinate efforts where possible. In general, if your building is on the New Zealand Heritage List, applications for funding seismic upgrade professional advice should go to Heritage New Zealand and applications for funding seismic upgrade works should go to Heritage EQUIP.

National Heritage Preservation Incentive fund - Heritage New Zealand website

Regional Culture and Heritage Fund

As well as administering Heritage EQUIP, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage also manages the Regional Culture and Heritage Fund (RCHF). 

This fund provides grants for not-for-profit organisations (including councils) that own buildings used for art gallery, whare taonga, museum, performing arts, or heritage purposes.  

Projects can involve heritage or newer buildings, and includes seismic strengthening, renovating, restoring, adding to, or constructing buildings.

The projects must be focused on improving the existing building stock or adding new buildings to our arts, cultural and heritage infrastructure.

Regional Culture and Heritage fund - Ministry for Culture and Heritage website

Lottery Community Facilities

Providing grants to improve or build new facilities for communities, and for studies to find out if a community facility is needed and can be achieved

The following may be funded:

  • projects to build new community buildings or facilities
  • projects to improve or enlarge existing community facilities
  • feasibility studies to work out if planned projects are needed, can be achieved and fit the long-term vision for the community
  • Seismic strengthening and engineering reports
  • building purchases (but only if this is a better and less costly option than building a new facility).

Community Matters - Lottery Community Facilities 


9. More information - Latest Updates

You can find more information about the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings in the following sources.

The methodology to identify earthquake-prone buildings has information on the categories of buildings that may be considered potentially earthquake prone and the criteria for determining whether a building or part of a building is earthquake prone.

Questions and Answers on new legislation for managing earthquake-prone buildings

Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005 on the Legislation website includes definitions includes definitions of key terms, requirements for earthquake-prone building notices, criteria for substantial alterations which may trigger early seismic work, and characteristics that a building must have to be granted an exemption.

Building (Infringement Offences, Fees, and Forms) Regulations 2007 on the Legislation website includes the new infringements and fees that relate to earthquake-prone buildings

Earthquake-prone building resources has additional guidance on how the system works.

Latest Updates