Wellington Scoop

Telling us or consulting us – saving or demolishing heritage buildings

Loss of our heritage is one of the key concerns for Wellington people who want to get involved with the government’s proposal for one national plan to define and enforce its authority over the fate of earthquake prone buildings.

Tonight’s meeting in the Michael Fowler Centre is the first of a series being held throughout the country. The relevant document shows lots of questions to be discussed, so there’s hope that meeting will represent consultation rather than the “take it or leave it” stance of the government’s Transport Agency, which has been telling us what it intends to do, regardless of what we want.

The government seems to have accepted the advice of risk management expert Tony Taig who says raising the earthquake prone building threshold from 33 per cent to 67 per cent of the new building standard would be of questionable benefit.

So it doesn’t propose to change this threshold. But it does plan to require all buildings below the threshold to be strengthened or demolished within a tighter timeframe than at present – 15 years or less.

Cost is an obvious concern for building owners. “The issue of insurance and who will pay for the strengthening work will likely come up at the meeting,” says Councillor Iona Pannett.

Unreinforced masonry buildings, such as the ones which give character to Cuba Street, will be particularly affected by new government policies – just how many will be shown when the city council completes its survey to show how many are below the earthquake-prone threshold.

A positive move: the research by fourth-year students at the School of Architecture which has resulted in an innovative plan for saving Cuba Street – by strengthening buildings with the strongest heritage values, and replacing others. Architects are confident that old unreinforced brick buildings can be strengthened. But the plan now needs to be embraced by those who own buildings in the precinct.

Wellington seems hopeful of retaining control of decisions about saving or demolishing buildings. Such control has been lost in Christchurch, with demolitions being enforced by CERA against the wishes of the locals. All the concerns expressed back in 2011 seem to have been borne out by what’s been happening in that sad city.

UPDATE from tonight’s meeting.
At the earthquake meeting, Minister Williamson has not addressed the issue of who will pay and how. This is the elephant in the room.
– Iona Pannett

Doing the right thing?

Deadline would threaten heritage buildings


  1. Neil Cameron, 6. February 2013, 16:26

    1) Christchurch is not a sad city. If you look beyond the bleating of the tiny percentage of Wellingtonians who actually own commercial property in Wellington and actually visited Christchurch to engage in some fact finding, you would know that Christchurch is a hopeful city, brimming with enthusiasm about the future of our city, even a far more exciting city than ye olde Wellington.

    2) It is delusional to suggest that money shouldnt be spent because it would save too few people. How many lives have to be saved before you approve the expenditure? How much money spent per life saved do you propose? What value do you put on the life of one voter?

    3) The relatively small death toll from the Christchurch earthquakes was due to a) the Feb 22 event occurring close to lunch hour, 2) the earthquake prone buildings in the city were unoccupied on Feb 22 due to the damage caused by the earlier sep 4 event and 3) the sep 4 event occurred outside office hours. If the Feb 22 event had occurred in office hours with those buildings occupied, the death toll could well have been in the thousands. Not all earthquakes occur outside office hours. Not all earthquakes wait until the unsafe buildings are unoccupied.

    4) Perhaps you would like to challenge the expenditure on cancer research or anti-tobacco campaigns or influenza vaccine runs or safe sex education because the number of lives saved is not enough to warrant the billions we spend every year on them & the hospitals, labs, clinics & marketing space required to make them happen. Perhaps you feel that this expenditure is a huge burden for those who own the organisations which provide these services.

    5) Old dunger buildings may exist on private land, but when they collapse they land on and kill people passing by on the public streets & adjacent public spaces. The wealthy people with a penchant for collecting old dunger buildings are as dangerous to the public as people with a penchant for smoking tobacco in the work places or restaurants that others frequent. [Abridged]

  2. Guy, 6. February 2013, 22:27

    Neil, your comment 5) is totally over the top, and basically a load of old cobblers – “wealthy people with a penchant for collecting old dunger buildings are as dangerous to the public” – give it up mate. If you’re trying to wind me up then you’re succeeding – never heard such a stupid comment. What planet are you from that you can even believe such a line, let alone write it.

  3. Phil C, 12. February 2013, 1:30

    You really do take yer chances living near a faultline. How long before the insurance companies start to refuse to insure houses in Wellington?