Fund for 'iconic projects' suggested

City councillors will this week discuss how much the council should get involved in financial...
City councillors will this week discuss how much the council should get involved in financial incentives for upgrading and restoring large-scale significant historic Dunedin buildings, such as the former King Edward Technical College in Stuart St. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
An ''iconic projects fund'' to provide large injections of council funding to a ''top-10'' list of large-scale heritage projects in Dunedin has been mooted by Dunedin City Council staff.

Annual funding in the order of $2 million has been suggested to assist ''icon projects'' such as the restoration or re-use of churches, cathedrals or religious buildings, theatres, prisons or former industrial city buildings.

Council funding would often be granted to match other community, national, and private funding. The new fund would be complemented by increases in funding for heritage restoration and re-use incentive schemes.

The option is raised in a report on the sustainability of the council's heritage incentive funding, to be considered during the 2014-15 budget discussions beginning this week.

In it, council policy planner (heritage) Glen Hazelton says the council's heritage building restoration and re-use incentive funds have become stretched as more people apply for more funds.

The current incentives provided by the council were insufficient to assist large-scale projects such as churches, cathedrals or community hubs, like the former King Edward Technical College, although the loss of such buildings ''would also be inconceivable to the fabric and community of Dunedin''.

The council incentivises heritage building restoration and re-use in the city through its heritage fund, rates relief, area-based heritage re-use grants and targeted rates for earthquake strengthening.

In the past five years, $724,000 has been granted from the heritage fund for 65 projects. In the same period, some 23 projects have received rates relief, often in conjunction with heritage fund grants, totalling more than $200,000 in that period.

About $160,000 in heritage re-use grants has been provided for 17 projects in the warehouse precinct and six in Princes St since 2012-13.

No-one has applied for the targeted rates scheme since it was introduced the same year.

Dr Hazelton said the incentives had created a positive environment for private sector heritage restoration, re-use and upgrade, and a surprising amount had taken place, despite continued regulatory uncertainty and Dunedin's low growth.

The result of the increased activity, however, was pressure on the council's heritage incentive budgets.

Four options for sustaining heritage upgrades were presented to councillors.

They could: return to earlier budgets, dropping the area-based re-use grants; maintain the level of incentives (including area-based re-use grants); increase the allocation to incentive schemes or put in place a more comprehensive heritage incentives approach, increasing the incentive budgets and introducing the ''iconic projects fund''.

The latter option could also be co-ordinated with targeted area-based funding schemes, or to a public safety scheme, such as co-ordinated parapets and facade strengthening in high-pedestrian areas, such as George St or Lower Stuart St.

The ''top 10'' buildings would have to be decided.

Heritage incentives were not about attempting to save every old building in Dunedin, Dr Hazelton said.

''They are about encouraging the re-use and protection of Dunedin's heritage-listed buildings and sufficient numbers of those other historic or character contributing buildings in key precincts to ensure Dunedin's distinct ''look and feel'' is protected into the future.''


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