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Public safety priority on heritage retention

Public safety priority on heritage retention

Heritage New Zealand says public safety remains the priority in discussions on providing heritage owners financial assistance and incentives to retain heritage buildings and make them commercially viable.

Yesterday’s call by Property Council Wellington for Wellington City Council to treat seismic strengthening of heritage buildings with practicality and consideration of owners’ financial constraints was supported by Heritage New Zealand Central Region General Manager Ann Neill.

“It is consistent with discussions we’ve been having with them and Council,” Mrs Neill says.

“We know that the public place a high value on heritage and there’s support and assistance available to owners, but we accept that it may not always be possible to retain heritage When a building is deemed earthquake prone two options exist to achieve the required level of public safety, strengthening or demolition.

If the building is a protected heritage building it is essential that the option of strengthening is given full consideration by Councils through the resource consent process. Councils need to be satisfied that after having obtained the advice of engineers with extensive experience in seismic strengthening and retrofitting of heritage buildings, that the costs of strengthening are prohibitive and available public incentives are insufficient to tip the balance in favour of The fact that a notice to strengthen or demolish may create a situation where the building is no longer capable of any reasonable use may be a justification for demolition; the fact that demolition could create a windfall gain for the owner is not.

Recent research conducted for Heritage New Zealand showed that 57% of New Zealanders care more about built heritage than in the previous year (53%) and up from 49% in 2012.

“Heritage buildings can be seismically strengthened using a variety of methods to suit the owner’s financial position and the ongoing purpose of the building. Owners have demonstrated this success already in Wellington with work to the Huddart Parker, the former Whitcoulls, and Morgan’s Building on Cuba Street.”

Heritage New Zealand and the Council have specialist advisers to work alongside building owners to find solutions to strengthen and retain as much heritage fabric and character of a building as practicable.

“We recognise owners may face issues in securing funding for necessary work, and that’s where incentives will make a difference, such as the five year rates relief package and increased heritage incentive fund offered by the Wellington City Council.

“We are working with the Wellington Property Council and City Council to identify other tools that can help owners.”

Safe and commercially viable heritage buildings will enhance Wellington’s reputation as a vibrant, cultural city to live and work in.

Figures published last week show that 684 pre-1976 buildings have been assessed by Wellington City Council as earthquake prone. While 20% of those (138) are heritage buildings, just 21 (3%) are entered as Category 1 on the New Zealand Heritage List.


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