“Assistance for Heritage / Earthquake Prone Buildings in New Zealand” : Peter Dowell – Developer and Investor in Heritage Buildings.

The Following article written by Peter Dowell appears in the latest HPA Oculus Newsletter.

Assistance for Heritage / Earthquake Prone Buildings in New Zealand

Over the last seven years since the Earthquakes on Christchurch (September 2010 & February 2011), Seddon (July 2013) & Kaikoura (November 2016) Heritage NZ, MBIE and local authorities have been working hard to assist building owners to make buildings in our cities more resilient to earthquakes.

In 2013 MBIE began a multi-year, work programme in response to the Royal Commission recommendations. While some work has been completed, other work, in particular research and collaboration, will be sustained and contribute to the development of better standards and guidance over time.

Especially since the Seddon earthquake local authorities have taken broader steps to assist building owners to be pro-active in fast forwarding the strengthening of their buildings to help keep their tenants and to be able to seek bank funding for building works.

The Wellington City Council has been at the forefront of these initiatives in trying to make Wellington a safer & stronger city. There are Various incentives in place now to assistance building owners to strengthen earthquake prone buildings.
• rates remission when a building is empty during strengthening work
• rates remission when a building is removed from the Earthquake-prone Buildings List
• building consent fee subsidy for strengthening works applications if your building is on the Earthquake-prone Buildings List.
• The Council's Built Heritage Incentive Fund helps owners maintain their heritage building. The fund has $3 million to allocate over three years. 15% of the fund is reserved for conservation-specific work, while 85% is intended for work related to earthquake strengthening.

A combination of the above actions coupled with tenant requirements for their buildings to be greater than 67%NBS along with banks increasing their lending standards has seen a substantial number of buildings (including Heritage) strengthened helping make the city a safer place to work & live.

For Heritage buildings to survive in the current environment owners need to be proactive in their approach towards strengthening for a positive outcome & a great success story is the Harcourts building that Heritage NZ fought hard in Court to stop the owner from demolishing. The building has been strengthened and will soon be a new hotel in the centre of the Wellington CBD.

From a tax perspective, many organisations have been rallying the IRD to change their stance on earthquake strengthening of buildings as “Capital” rather than an “Expense”. This is still an ongoing debate. In summary owners of Built Heritage should be looking at way to strengthen their buildings and if un-economic look at ways to work with HNZ at possible adaptive re-uses for long term benefits to the owners, the community and future generations to enjoy.

Peter Dowell Is a Developer and Investor in Heritage Buildings. Peter is also the Chair of Historic Places Wellington.

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