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National Heritage Conference shows way forward

March 2008

National Heritage Conference shows way forward

Central and local government need to provide better incentives for property owners if we are to preserve our heritage buildings for future generations.

That was just one of the key messages to come out of the National Heritage Conference, held recently in Wanganui, which is being hailed as an invaluable experience by New Zealand Historic Places Trust Chief Executive Bruce Chapman. Mr Chapman, who delivered a key note address to the conference as well as the closing, said “the conference illustrated the importance of having such a diverse group of experts to give a comprehensive view of the heritage landscape.”

The two day conference, organised by the Wanganui District Council, with support from New Zealand Historic Places Trust, brought together local authority staff, private sector engineers’ architects, planners, property owners and developers, insurance and fire protection consultants.

Among the challenges discussed was the balance to be struck between incentives and costs to owners, public safety and saving heritage buildings, building code compliance and heritage conservation techniques. Last year’s earthquakes in Peru and Gisborne provided tangible examples of heritage building losses.

Advances in computer modelling and risk assessment now enable engineers and architects to make the most of the existing structure, minimise interventions to the heritage fabric and achieve good quality design and adaptive reuses. Christchurch Heritage Trust Chair Derek Anderson, Peter Dowell, Director from Wellington based Heritage Property Management, and Mark McGuiness, Willis Bond Co. provided examples of maximising potential returns in today’s economic climate through successful adaptive reuses.

A range of incentives were discussed including low interest loan schemes, incentive funds, permissive regulatory systems, spot zoning, tax rebates/credits and accelerated depreciation.

In his concluding comments Bruce Chapman stated the need “for local and central government to be more explicit in policies for property conservation, protection, and strengthening than at present and to be more flexible in our approach to dealing with properties at risk. The bottom line is ensuring the long term survivability of New Zealand’s finite heritage stock.”


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