Buildings policy change welcomed

Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Marcus Brown welcomed the Government's changes to the policy of strengthening earthquake-prone buildings announced yesterday, but felt they did not go far enough.

The time frame for strengthening category 1 heritage buildings and those on the proposed national historic landmarks list has been extended to up to 10 years.

The trust owns 16 heritage buildings in Oamaru's Harbour-Tyne Sts precinct, but only four are category 1 listed and would qualify for special consideration for an extension of time to reach the standards.

It was possible that same ratio could apply throughout Oamaru.

Yet category 2 and some unlisted buildings were of major importance to the overall streetscape of Victorian Town Oamaru, and its tourist appeal.

''It would be like removing some teeth and replacing them with dentures,'' he said, if gaps were left because category 2 or heritage building owners could not afford to upgrade them and they were demolished.

''Our greatest concern would be that long-term impact. Any heritage building regardless of its classification should be considered for an extension,'' he said.

Dunedin civil engineer Lou Robinson, of Hadley & Robinson Ltd, was assessing all the trust's buildings. Once that was completed, the trust would have an idea of its liability. However, Mr Brown believed already most of its buildings would meet the 34% minimum of the new building standard.

He paid tribute to previous trust boards who upgraded buildings as they were purchased, including earthquake-strengthening.

The trust, and other building owners, would have to meet the new requirements for insurance and to attract tenants.

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper said the policy was ''a pragmatic and reasonable approach''.

''Obviously, this will put a cost on our community but it gives more time to respond to the possible threat to life.''

He was happy owners of some buildings would be able to get exemptions from strengthening.

The exemptions apply for buildings in which the impact of failure is low, such as farm outbuildings and some rural halls and churches.


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