New Zealand Law Society - Support for unconsented emergency building measures

Support for unconsented emergency building measures

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The New Zealand Law Society says it supports unconsented building work by territorial authorities in certain emergency and life-threatening situations, saying that ultimately the risk to life should outweigh the need to obtain building and/or resource consents.

The Law Society has released its comments to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on the ministry's Building Act Emergency Management Proposals consultation paper.

While it agrees with allowing unconsented building work by territorial authorities to remove immediate life-safety risks, it says there is a real risk that building work under the proposals would not be legal and/or code compliant.

Liability for defective building work carried out under the proposals should be considered, it says, especially the liability of the council which has not given the building consent.

The proposal for work where there is immediate danger is silent on the question of consultation with landowners, the Law Society says. It notes that while landowner views would not be determinative, they should be considered before work which bypasses the consent process is undertaken.

"A mechanism should be provided for the situation where the views of the landowner have been sought but unable to be reasonably obtained."

The Law Society also points to a need to clarify that the cost of the works is to be borne by the owner of the property causing the danger, and would not be allocated to a neighbouring owner if their property is damaged in the process of removing the danger.

It suggests consideration of whether the proposal should be extended to allow owners of buildings causing immediate danger to bypass the consent process for life-safety protection.

In relation to another proposal in the consultation paper, the Law Society also supports territorial authorities being able to remove dangers causing significant economic disruption without requiring resource or building consents. As well as ensuring that the authorities are required to notify property owners, it would be appropriate to require them to consider the views of the property owners before issuing a warrant.

"However, care would need to be taken in defining 'significant economic disruption' so that it represents circumstances that properly justify action being taken without the usual controls under the Resource Management and Building Acts," it says.