Councillors support heritage fund allocation

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust (HPT) has been challenged to help the Dunedin City Council beef up a council-administered heritage fund.

The council yesterday voted to restore to $80,000 the money it allocates to its Heritage Fund. The pre-draft annual plan had halved it to $40,000.

Deputy Mayor Chris Staynes reminded councillors the trust helped administer the fund but that it did not give it any money.

HPT Otago-Southland manager Owen Graham this week told the Otago Daily Times the trust did not have the resources to bolster the fund.

Even so, Cr Staynes said it needed to be "re-engaged" to lobby central Government to match, dollar-for-dollar, council heritage funding.

It would do so for a fund Cr Syd Brown urged, unsuccessfully, to be allocated a pared-down, $40,00 budget.

He told councillors it had a sizeable bank balance, and reminded them they started the pre-draft annual plan process wanting to keep rates down.

"If you are going to be prudent, you need to be prudent through the whole [council] budget."

Cr Lee Vandervis, chairman of the heritage fund allocation committee, defended the fund as an increasingly successful incentive to property owners keen to restore city heritage.

It had a $482,136 balance but only $129,102 has not already been allocated. Halving its funding to $40,000 would severely restrict what it could do.

The fund could not pre-plan for the applications it might receive and it needed to have the cash on hand to react when those applications came in.

More applications for potentially expensive work were expected in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake and the demise of the Dragon Cafe building in Rattray St.

Building owners needed help to earthquake-strengthen heritage buildings, and the city needed to be ready to help with seeding funds to make things happen, Cr Vandervis said.

Cr Kate Wilson said Dunedin was leading the way in its renewed commitment to built heritage, but Mayor Dave Cull lamented years of inaction on heritage.

The fund showed the city was committed to built heritage and to remove it would be "like saying we didn't mean it, really, and would not be a good look".

The heritage fund continued to help gather momentum for heritage, and the $80,000 was a small price to pay for keeping that momentum going.



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