Christchurch Rebuild – Comments: Maurice Williamson, Minister for Building and Construction

Maurice Williamson, Minister for Building and Construction, New Zealand Government

“We need to keep raising the bar and ensure standards in New Zealand’s building sector are best practice”

New Zealand Government Minister Maurice Williamson recently gave an opening speech at the Certified Builders Association of New Zealand (CBANZ) annual conference, addressing the New Zealand Government’s plans for the long-term recovery of Canterbury following the recent earthquakes.

Williamson highlighted that the Canterbury Rebuild is currently one of the government’s top priorities, being the largest ever building project undertaken in New Zealand which requires sustained effort over a number of years.

Williamson emphasised that the focus must now be on the long-term reconstruction and recovery. This long-term recovery includes new and innovative construction methods ensuring a safer and more efficient reconstruction. To achieve this, the Department of Building and Housing (now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) is currently reviewing the policy and practice around earthquake-prone buildings.

It is anticipated that the review will recommend policy changes that have two broad aims:

1)    Ensure the policies strike the right balance between life and safety considerations and other factors such as economic impacts and heritage values; and

2)    Ensure effective implementation and administration of new policies.

In addition, the Department of Building and Housing has accepted all the recommendations of the Expert Panel’s Report on the structural performance of Christchurch central business district buildings in the 22 February 2011 aftershock.

Williamson stated that already, it has become apparent from the review that there needs to be a better understanding of life safety and other risks associated with buildings in earthquakes. Full terms of reference and more information about the review being conducted by the Department of Building and Housing are available on the Department’s website: http://www.dbh.govt.nz/.

The following will be elements of the work programme to be implemented:

  • helping practitioners keep up to date with the latest developments and requirements for the seismic design of buildings;
  • reviewing the measures and methodology used for post-earthquake inspection of buildings;
  • working with the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand and leading building contractors to review the level of in-situ concrete strength; and
  • working with the engineering profession to develop new guidance and standards for earthquake strengthening and construction, based on the information and learnings from the Christchurch earthquakes. The learnings will be made available to territorial authorities, building owners, engineers, and relevant building professionals.

Finally, Mr Williamson stated that the Royal Commission on the Canterbury earthquakes has highlighted the importance of the skills and accountability of designers, engineers and others involved in building and construction and will reinforce their accountability in the future.

Another planned amendment to existing policy is the introduction of a framework for a risk-based approach to building consent and inspection requirements, so that these are aligned to the risk and consequences of building defects, and the skills and capabilities of those doing the work.

This amendment is expected to provide earlier identification and consideration of project risks, greater accountability by designers, documented means of managing those project risks and transparency on liability.

However, Mr Williamson noted that these announced changes will not be introduced until the sector is considered ready.

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New Zealand Skills In Demand is a New Zealand-based consultancy with offices in Christchurch, New Zealand and London, United Kingdom providing effective solutions to New Zealand employers for the attraction, recruitment and relocation of skilled migrants to great New Zealand organisations. We have formed a strategic partnership with Migration Associates, a visa consultancy based in the United Kingdom, which specialises in New Zealand visas.

New Zealand Skills In Demand is working with the key players involved in the Recovery of Canterbury at both a local and national level, in both the private and public sectors.

As a Kiwi company, we are committed to playing our part in realising the New Zealand Government’s vision for Christchurch as “a place to be proud of – an attractive and vibrant place to live, work, visit and invest, mo tatou, a, mo ka uri a muri ake nei – for us and our children after us”.

Current briefs:

  • Land and Quantity Surveyors
  • Structural and geotechnical engineers
  • Construction project managers
  • Roading engineers and designers
  • Mechanics
  • Painters and decorators
  • Carpenters and builders
  • Site managers – groundworks / construction
  • Urban planners

If you wish to be involved in the Recovery of Canterbury, visit www.nzskillsindemand.co.nz for contact details.