The true risks earthquake-prone public buildings pose to Hastings will remain largely unknown over the next decade unless a plan to speed up assessments is brought forward during the financial year.
The Hastings District Council's finance and monitoring committee meets today to consider approving an extra $100,000 to advance engineering assessments of the council's public buildings. The council's parks and properties asset manager, Colin Hosford, said it had 125 public buildings which it managed, and another 45 which it owned and were located on council land but maintained by other groups.
He said in his report, council staff had prioritised buildings for engineering assessment and began working through the list about 18 months ago with just a "modest budget" of about $20,000 for the current financial year.
"Now that a number of assessments have been completed, a clearer picture is unfolding in regard to both the building stock and the methodology we follow.
"Officers now believe it is appropriate to reappraise the way we are approaching assessments of council's buildings with a view to improving the process and accelerating the rate of assessment of our priority public buildings."
The current "initial earthquake-prone" reviews would take about 10 years to complete but Mr Hosford was worried about the time it would take to identify and mitigate buildings' structural failings.
An immediate detailed assessment would provide the likely costs and information needed to make repairs. The lack of information was slowing the council's efforts to work through the buildings. "To meet our programmes, we need to change how we assess the earthquake-prone buildings," Mr Hosford said.
Staff had completed 13 initial earthquake-prone reviews of council buildings but the reports were conservative "and can be initially alarming and produce public concern when there might not in fact be an issue". Mr Hosford said it would be more cost-effective to skip the initial earthquake-prone reviews and go straight to detailed assessments. He said approving the extra $100,000 would mean staff could complete 16 initial earthquake-prone reviews of "lower-risk buildings" and 26 detailed assessments of the high-priority buildings.
The extra money would come out of the 2011-12 surplus budget.