Harcourts decision: Mayor and Councillor respond

3 November 2014

The Environment Court has confirmed its ruling against the proposed demolition of the Harcourts building in Lambton Quay.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the City Council will examine the decision closely given its important implications for the treatment of heritage-listed properties like the Harcourts building.

“Neither the Court nor the Council are convinced that there is no reasonable alternative to demolition.”

The Court was instructed to re-hear the case by the High Court after an appeal against its similar decision last year.
 
Mayor Wade-Brown says Wellington's built heritage is very important to our sense of place. “Strengthening is obviously good for public safety and ensures the city's history can continue to be visible.
 
“The Court decision will also be of interest to other councils and property owners around the country.

“People in Wellington value their heritage. We are seeing the anguish in Canterbury when much-loved buildings are demolished. Investment ahead of a disaster can reduce human and cultural loss significantly.

“Wellington City Council is the first council to have ensured an assessment of all pre-1976 buildings is complete. We take risk, heritage and economics seriously in the Capital.”

Mayor Wade-Brown says the Environment Court decision makes a number of observations that the perceived earthquake risk to the public presented by the Harcourt building is not as high as claimed by some.

Councillor Iona Pannett, the Council’s Buildings Portfolio Leader, says: “The Court appears to support the proposition that buildings like the Harcourts building can be quake-strengthened and that the economics stack up.

“The Council appreciates that owners of heritage buildings do face significant costs where strengthening is required – which is why we will continue to work with owners and other interested parties to find ways to make projects financially viable. New building technologies are emerging rapidly. Our Built Heritage Fund will be increasingly important to ensure heritage is preserved."