Rebuilding Canterbury with confidence

Issue 24 – February 2011

As smaller earthquakes continue to shake Canterbury, Department of Building and Housing (DBH) staff continue their work on recovery and reconstruction, providing support to councils and local people while planning and working towards the larger rebuilding programme.

DBH is playing a lead role in the government's response to the earthquake recovery. Active involvement started on 4 September 2010 when staff joined the emergency response team. Within hours DBH had engineers in Christchurch checking buildings to determine their safety.

'One of the first jobs they did was to check out our own offices, so we could get staff back into the building and onto the phones to take calls from landlords and tenants,' says DBH Chief Executive Katrina Bach.

'It was pleasing to see that despite being tested to the limit, the Building Code came through with flying colours and most of the modern buildings, despite being severely shaken, responded as they should. In the aftermath we are responding to many international queries as to how Canterbury stood up so well,' says Bach.

An order in council (a type of law) has been passed to allow limited building repairs, replacement and demolition work to occur, without a building consent, in earthquake-affected areas of Canterbury. This will speed recovery.

Canterbury needs 1600 licensed building practitioners to manage the volume of rebuilding work. At the time of the earthquake it had 350. DBH has a recruitment plan underway to rapidly increase these numbers and has run 40 clinics and a large Expo which have jointly led to an increase in the number of licensed practitioners and those in the process of getting licensed (see National Competency Assessment System for Building Consent Authorities).

DBH assisted the Earthquake Commission to select Fletchers as the preferred provider to establish a Project Management Office to manage the repair of houses in the $10,000 to $100,000 bracket. DBH will continue to work with Fletchers and the EQC and have ongoing representation in the Project Management Office.

Together with an engineering advisory group, DBH is developing technical guidance for architects, engineers, builders and councils on how to repair and rebuild houses in areas where there has been ground damage. (Note: In December 2010, DBH published a guidance document. For more information please read the Touchstone article 'Repair and rebuild of houses in land-damaged areas of Canterbury – guidance document published'

DBH is also working with major construction companies and council staff to establish a commercial building peer review process that will streamline and speed up the consenting process for commercial buildings, freeing up council staff to focus on the needs of the residential market.

Summarised from Codewords November/December 2010, Department of Building and Housing.

Published in building.