Earthquake-strengthening policy for commercial buildings in small-town New Zealand

Disasters. 2020 Jan;44(1):179-204. doi: 10.1111/disa.12360. Epub 2019 Sep 19.


New Zealand introduced a seismic retrofitting policy in the wake of the catastrophic Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-11. The aim was to enforce seismic strengthening of earthquake-prone commercial buildings throughout the country. This study focuses on regional urban centres and the economic obstacles to strengthening their aging building stock. In investigating one town, Whanganui, we describe conditions, analyse cases, and identify incentives that apply equally to many other towns in New Zealand. We argue that incentives that suit high-growth, high-value major urban centres are a poor fit for the periphery. Around the world, many places need to upgrade their privately-owned building stock to protect it from disasters, while governments face similar challenges as they struggle to initiate the strengthening of commercial buildings. We analyse the current incentive schemes that aim to support the achievement of policy goals and suggest alternative incentive schemes that can be implemented to improve strengthening outcomes.

Keywords: Canterbury earthquakes; earthquake insurance; earthquake strengthening; heritage buildings; incentives; retrofit; small towns; subsidy.

MeSH terms

  • Cities
  • Disaster Planning*
  • Earthquakes*
  • Facility Design and Construction*
  • Humans
  • New Zealand
  • Policy*