Seismic strengthening will go ahead on Wellington's Toomath's building and Adelaide Hotel after a high court judge ruled the work should proceed.

The Wellington city council has issued earthquake-prone building notices on owners of the two buildings for the past 20 years, requiring them to do strengthening works to upgrade them to at least 34% of the New Building Standard, or demolish them outright.

The owners, Lakhi Maa, who owns 114 Adelaide Rd, and Scoter Ltd, which owns the Toomath's building, refused to do anything. 

Two years ago the council applied for an order authorising it to do the necessary seismic work and recover the costs from the owners.

The owners opposed the applications and the district court refused to grant the orders.

On appeal, Justice Rebecca Ellis agreed with the council on all grounds and granted the order on the basis that there was "little contestable" about whether a building is earthquake-prone.

Council chief infrastructure officer Siobhan Procter said the application was a test case, and the first made in NZ under the Building (Earthquake Prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2017, with the ruling setting a precedent for future applications.

She said council officers will work with the owners regarding the next steps, and whether a resource consent is needed, given the heritage status of both buildings. 

There are thought to be more than 500 earthquake-prone commercial buildings through greater Wellington.