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High-pedestrian areas identified to prioritise earthquake-prone buildings and keep communities safe

Waikato District Council has formally classified high pedestrian traffic areas in Ngaruawahia, Huntly and Te Kauwhata, for the purpose of identifying potentially earthquake-prone priority buildings.

Councils throughout New Zealand are required to identify earthquake prone buildings (EPB) in their area as part of the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016. Each Council must also identify high pedestrian areas where an earthquake could cause people to be injured from falling masonry, or where important roads or routes could be blocked.

After consulting with the community, Waikato District Council has identified streets within the following towns as high pedestrian areas. They are:

  • Central Business District Area (Main Street), Huntly – extending to the north-end of the Main Street
  • Bridge Street, Huntly
  • Central Business District Area, Ngaruawahia
  • Main Street, Te Kauwhata

Details of these high pedestrian areas can be found at

The streets are in medium seismic risk areas and are considered to have a high volume of pedestrian traffic or vehicles relative to each local circumstance. 

Any commercial buildings containing unreinforced masonry (URM) or identified as earthquake-prone in the high pedestrian areas will be classified as a ‘priority building’ and need to be upgraded within 12 and a half years, to reduce the risk to public safety. Other URM buildings in the medium seismic risk zone located outside of the identified high pedestrian traffic areas will have 25 years to be updated. These rules do not apply to standard residential dwellings.

Buildings are regarded as earthquake-prone if they are assessed as being less than one-third of the strength required for a new build in the same location in moderate earthquake shaking. The rating is determined by a building's weakest element. The rating does not mean the building is unsafe or cannot be used, it means it will not perform as well as a new building in a moderate earthquake. 

The national system ensures the way buildings are managed for future earthquakes is consistent across the country. It also provides more information for people using buildings, such as notices on earthquake-prone buildings and a public register.

"Waikato District Council has provided information to owners of buildings identified as earthquake prone or potentially earthquake prone, and are available to answer any questions people may have,” says Waikato District Council Building Quality Manager Merv Balloch.

The high pedestrian street areas were adopted at Waikato District Council’s meeting on 30 June 2022.