Heritage Earthquake Strengthening Fund Welcome
12 August 2016
Heritage Earthquake Strengthening Fund Welcome but Insufficient
Property Council New Zealand welcomes today’s announcement by the Government of a $12 million contestable fund to help private property owners to earthquake strengthen category 1 and 2 historic buildings.
Chief Executive Connal Townsend says “the fund is a very welcome but underwhelming development.”
“The fund will provide impetus for the further preservation of heritage buildings in our earthquake-prone regional towns and cities.
“Earthquake strengthening is a crucial but expensive undertaking, especially for heritage buildings. It is unaffordable for most building owners. Three million dollars per year over the next four years will only be enough for a handful of buildings.
“In cities like Dunedin or Whanganui, we have hundreds of earthquake prone buildings built well over a 100 years ago. The economic viability of these cities hinge on either strengthening these buildings or allowing owners to demolish and replace them with modern and safe buildings”.
Mr Townsend adds that a number of councils understand the issue and are providing leadership, “Wellington City Council provides financial levers and incentives for earthquake strengthening. The approach taken the Council with its rates remission policy and building consent subsidy is helpful in providing some financial relief when strengthening buildings.
“Yet, what we are missing is a joint approach by Government and councils in meeting the challenge of earthquake strengthening. A lot more needs to be done in this space. What people tend to forget is that commercial property is a key driver of economic and social prosperity in our towns and cities”.
Property Council has been advocating for years for the Government to provide assistance to all building owners to earthquake strengthen because of the high risk to public safety and affordability constraints.
“We prefer a more comprehensive scheme, such as making earthquake strengthening costs tax deductible. That’s a much fairer system and allows for many more earthquake prone buildings to be made safe,” Mr Townsend said.
“It is unclear how the advisory panel will prioritise buildings for strengthening – whether it will be purely on heritage value or if it will also look at life safety, technical feasibility and affordability issues.”
“A number of Property Council members have extensive experience earthquake strengthening heritage buildings. We would be happy to work on the advisory panel to ensure that the new fund is effective in safely strengthening as many buildings as possible and preserving critical New Zealand heritage.” Mr Townsend added.