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Environment Court Ruling Ignores Property Owners’ Rights

8 October 2013

Environment Court Ruling Ignores Property Owners’ Rights

Property Council is deeply disappointed with the Environment Court ruling that the heritage-listed Harcourts building in Wellington’s city centre cannot be demolished.

While public safety is an obvious concern, the decision sets a dangerous precedence for all owners of historic buildings and the wider public. It fails to consider the hefty financial cost of upgrading the building to the New Building Standard (NBS), whether feasible or not.

In many cases building owners will have the will, but not the financial ability to carry out structural work when constructions costs can often be higher than the total value of the property. The unintended consequence is for the buildings to remain standing but becoming derelict - creating a greater risk to the public.

In a worst case scenario for Wellington, NBS requirements mean that the buildings are left for ‘demolition by neglect’ resulting in large areas of the city left vacant and causing an economic downturn in the affected areas .

“Every main street in every town in New Zealand has a Harcourts type building. The construction cost of the required works would more often than not be higher than the end value of the building,” said Property Council’s Wellington branch president Andrew Hay.

In many cases the same buildings are owned by local authorities and it is in no one’s interest to cripple the finances of small towns simply for heritage preservation.

Wellington’s local government must take into account the rights of property owners in this regard if the health of its commercial property market is to be at optimum.

Property Council calls on the Government to explore financial incentives for property owners of heritage buildings to upgrade their structures to the minimum NBS.

ENDS

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