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Incentives For Heritage Building Owners

Wednesday 15 September 2004

Financial Incentives For Heritage Building Owners

Rates relief or low-or-no interest loans may be in store for owners of Auckland heritage buildings if Action Hobson wins the three Hobson Ward seats on the Auckland City Council next month.

Richard Simpson, an Action Hobson candidate for the Auckland City Council, said these were among the ideas the group was considering to ensure Auckland's heritage is preserved. Action Hobson has also previously announced plans to tighten development rules to protect heritage buildings.

"Right now, all the financial incentives say to home and building owners: 'knock them down and put in infill housing', and it is not surprising many do," Richard Simpson said. "To change this we need as a city to look at ways to ensure property owners are strongly encouraged to maintain and restore the historic architecture that is valuable to all Aucklanders."

Richard Simpson said the difficulty with such schemes was that they could be said to advantage some home-owners over other ratepayers, but with careful policy design a scheme could be developed which would be fair to owners of historic properties as well as ratepayers.

"We are looking at systems based around interest-free loans," he said. "An elderly person could receive an interest-free loan to pay rates which would only need to be repaid from that person's estate. Other owners of historic homes and buildings could receive interest-free loans for painting and restoration that would later be repaid when they sold. Ratepayers would get the money back in the future, while the property owner would keep any additional value the restoration created."

The scheme under consideration would not be available simply to owners of large, stately homes, Richard Simpson said.

"In general, our most stately homes are well looked after simply because of their value," he said. "The schemes we are considering are more closely targeted at historic streets with bungalows and villas that Aucklanders would like to see preserved but where existing incentives for owners are not so strong."

Such assistance would become necessary before Action Hobson could pursue plans to tighten rules over the development of historic buildings, homes and streets. "We can't impose tighter rules on property owners without looking at ways to help them maintain value in such an environment."

Richard Simpson said that following the election, Action Hobson would work with other councillors and policy experts to finetune its ideas and would approach major banks for potential sponsorship to reduce or eliminate any cost to ratepayers.

"It is possible the ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Kiwibank, National Bank, Westpac or another financial institution would see commercial advantage to it in sponsoring the scheme to underline its commitment to Auckland and New Zealand heritage," he said.

Assistance would need to be capped at a fixed level, Richard Simpson said, which Action Hobson is suggesting should be $50,000 for a private residence and $100,000 for a commercial building.

"We are not considering a free-for-all. We are looking at a sensible, moderate scheme that would play an important part in protecting our city's heritage," he said.

Action Hobson, the new political vehicle opposed to the planned Eastern Motorway and in favour of Rapid Transit Solutions for Auckland's gridlock, is contesting the three Hobson Ward seats on the Auckland City Council and the six seats on the Hobson Community Board.


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