Finding ways for saving and strengthening


Surprising and encouraging news this morning that developer Mark Dunajtschik may have found a way to persuade himself that he can save the Harcourts Building on Lambton Quay.

Till now, he has repeatedly and stubbornly insisted that he must demolish it. His demolition plans have twice been rejected but a High Court decision this month instructed that the case be re-heard.

The re-hearing may not be necessary if a plan reported in today’s DomPost is successful. Hank Schouten’s report reveals a proposal for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to move into the building if it is strengthened. Mark Dunajtschik explains:

“First of all Harcourts would be saved, secondly I would have a tenant and thirdly they would be accommodated and would have contributed to saving a building that would otherwise be demolished.”

There’s cautious comment from the Ministry’s Lewis Holden:

The ministry was still interested in the deal, but needed to resolve some bureaucratic issues to find a solution that “works for Mark, works for us, works for Wellington and works for heritage”.

Four excellent aims. Let’s expect that a deal can be done.

And let’s also hope that the city council is being similarly constructive with its delayed plans to strengthen Wellington’s beautiful 110-year-old town hall. Since reports that the cost of strengthening the town hall had risen to $60m, $17m above the figure that was unanimously accepted by councillors last year, there’s been silence from the council. Whatever is being discussed, it’s not being shared with Wellingtonians.

When councillors voted unanimously to save the building, Mayor Wade-Brown delivered a convincing argument:

My colleagues and I agreed that the project must go ahead. The Town Hall is a historic landmark building. The money we will spend will future-proof the building for the next century. Music performance and recordings will benefit hugely.

Iona Pannett was also on target when she said

“The Wellington Town Hall is part of our sense of place, we’re not prepared to let such an important piece of our heritage be reduced to rubble,”

The mayor was also aware that the council was setting an example for other building owners:

This is a critical commitment to a strong future for Wellington. We cannot expect private owners to upgrade and strengthen their heritage buildings if we don’t show this commitment.

Work on the town hall was supposed to have started by the end of last year. It was put on hold while costings were re-examined. There were suggestions that the level of strengthening (140 per cent of code) was unnecessarily high, which indicates the council should have plenty of scope for revising the costs, while staying with its unanimous vote that the building must be saved.

Serious about saving and strengthening



  1. Rosamund, 12. May 2014, 11:51

    I am delighted at Mark’s change of heart.

    Its good news especially for Lewis Holden – CEO Ministry of Culture and Heritage as most of the background work has already been done and was referred to at the original hearing.

  2. Nora, 13. May 2014, 21:58

    I suggest that the Mayor and Councillors advise the Government that instead of spending $90m on a concrete flyover to save minutes (!) it contributes to the strengthening of our 110 year old Town Hall which like the Harcourt’s building has survived many earthquakes.


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