Engineers employed by the Ministry of Justice to evaluate
the cost of earthquake-strengthening the Oamaru courthouse
should put more stock in local knowledge, according to local
Engineers from Opus International and representatives from
the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (HPT) arrived in Oamaru
this week to assess options for the courthouse, which was
deemed an earthquake risk last November.
However, local property investors have now also taken issue
with the classification of Oamaru stone as unreinforced
masonry, which could increase earthquake-strengthening costs
for many of the town's heritage buildings.
New Zealand Property Investors Association North Otago branch
president Helen Stead said building owners were faced with
uncertainty over earthquake-strengthening levels, increased
costs for insurance, low valuations and "forced closure of
certain public buildings".
"Of particular concern is nervousness about risk, with legal
ramifications the driving force, both in received costs for
upgrading as well as alarming increases for insurance cover
on Oamaru stone buildings and structures.
"In almost all cases, costs for strengthening local heritage
buildings have been considerably lower than originally stated
by national bodies. Similarly, the sharing of information
about local conservation methods needs to be more widely
known and appreciated."
Mrs Stead said a seismic and structural engineer with
international experience rebuilding earthquake-damaged
buildings would visit Oamaru and give a presentation on his
thoughts on the use of Oamaru stone next Tuesday .
The Ministry of Justice commissioned Opus International to
carry out further investigative work earlier this month,
after the ministry's original estimate of how much it would
cost to strengthen the historic courthouse was questioned by
Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton.
The ministry had claimed strengthening would cost $5 million,
but Mr Familton said it could be done for a tenth of that.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the latest work, which
would include taking geotechnical and core samples, would
"take some time" to complete.