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NZ Historic Places May Be At Risk

NEWS RELEASE January 1, 2005

NZ historic places may be at risk

New Zealand’s heritage and religious buildings could be seriously underinsured, says an international authority on their protection and sustainability.

The chief surveyor of the UK-based International Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), Ian Wainwright, is in New Zealand to brief interested parties on specialised risk management of heritage buildings within the religious and educational sector.

The NZ Historic Places Trust has over 6,000 historic and heritage sites on its register. The register does not include all New Zealand heritage sites, but it does include a significant number of historic buildings.

“Heritage buildings have unique and complex risks and preservation issues. Some of them do not perform like ‘normal’ structures and should not be treated as such, neither in terms of risk management nor insurance valuations.

“Even in the UK, where we have 500,000 listed heritage buildings (three percent of the entire building stock), we tend not to fully understand all the risks and issues involved.”

EIG insures over 50% of the UK’s top heritage sites, including 42 of England’s 43 cathedrals. As well as St Paul’s and Canterbury Cathedrals, it insures York Minster and Westminster Abbey, 94% of the Anglican churches, many ancient streetscapes, famous schools such as Eton, Harrow and Rugby, and parts of Oxford.

Mr Wainwright is in New Zealand at the invitation of EIG-Ansvar, the New Zealand arm of the EIG Group. EIG-Ansvar is a major insurer of New Zealand churches and other buildings with religious and heritage connections.

Mr Wainwright stressed the dangers of underestimating the financial, community and cultural impacts of a loss to a heritage site.

He said there is often a real need to educate site operators about best practice risk management and prevention strategies, and disaster recovery plans.

“Heritage sites are a finite resource. Once destroyed they are gone for ever, because it’s virtually impossible to rebuild them as they were.

“Artisans and tradespeople with the necessary skills are extremely rare, as are the right materials. Even if they are available, today’s building and compliance codes mean a building’s original design probably cannot be duplicated.

“Sometimes it’s actually impossible to replace the valuable antiquities and cultural icons in historic buildings - and then there is the cost of attempting to repair or re-create something that’s hundreds of years old and built with the kind of design intricacies that make them milestones of history.”

Mr Wainwright cited the historic Rangiatea Church that burnt down in Otaki, near Wellington, in 1995. Completed in 1851 and insured for $560,000, it eventually cost $2.3 million to replace.

The company is developing specialised risk management strategies for site operators. These include procedures for identifying the specialised risks associated with older buildings, detailing the impacts of loss or damage and introducing mitigating strategies, and ensuring appropriate insurance cover.

“It’s not just heritage sites that ignore the dangers,” Mr Wainwright said. “Over 90% of UK businesses do not have disaster recovery plans. “Of those that do, 50% of the plans prove inadequate.”

Editor’s note: Mr Wainwright will be presenting at functions in Auckland and Wellington.

- Wellington, Feb 1, 2005, 4.00pm – 5.30pm. Loaves and Fishes, Wellington Cathedral, Molesworth st.

- Auckland, Feb 3, 2005, 4.00pm – 5.30pm. Selwyn Library, 10 St Stephens Ave, Parnell.

Ian Wainwright Bio

Ian is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute and a member of the Association of Building Engineers. He is also a Director and past Chairman of the Association of Burglary Insurance Surveyors Limited, Secretary of the Fire Insurance Surveyors Society and past Chairman of the Gloucestershire Fire Liaison Panel.

Chief Surveyor for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) since 1996, he manages its team of 50 surveyors worldwide. He also oversees the development of client risk management services, and the research, training and survey systems that underpin this work.

He is involved in a number of UK and European technical committees focusing on the protection and sustainability of heritage buildings. He has worked on initiatives involving the Building Research Establishment, English Heritage, the Fire Protection Association, the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England, the Physical Sciences Research Council, the University College of London and the European Union. Ian is in New Zealand to share his specialist knowledge with friends of EIG-Ansvar, New Zealand’s leading insurer of church properties.

Ian Wainwright is an internationally recognised authority on the preservation of important heritage buildings and the associated issues of risk management and post-loss reinstatement.


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