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Building on the edge: The use and development of land on or close to fault lines

1 March 2001

New Zealand is located over an active plate boundary and many parts of the country face a risk of earthquake damage within people's lifetimes. Addressing earthquake events to minimise loss of life and damage to property is a national issue. There is concern about the ability of the Building Act 1991(BA) and the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) to adequately manage the use and development of land on or close to fault lines. This was conveyed to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) by a Kapiti Coast resident, with extensive experience in earth deformation, who drew attention to the granting of resource and building consents for the development of a local retirement complex sited over an active fault trace and unstable hill slope. Further information from the Earthquake Commission raised difficulties with section 36(2) of the BA, which impacts on insurance coverage for landowners. The New Zealand Geological Society raised concerns about the sufficiency of weight given to scientific evidence in reaching resource consent decisions.

Consultation took place with the agencies and organisations involved, as well as with the individual who raised the matter. Ideas were sought on gaps and possible improvements to the New Zealand system for addressing the use and development of land on or close to fault lines. The resulting report outlines the current statutory regime and the key responsibilities of each of the agencies involved. The relevant work of the Building Industry Authority, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Ministry for the Environment, the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences and the Ministry for Emergency Management is briefly described in so far as it impacts on land development and use over fault lines.