News | 20 February 2018

Just 62 heritage buildings yet to be strengthened

Latest figures released by Wellington City Council show that progress is being made to make safe Wellington’s at-risk heritage buildings.

Morgan's building after renovation in 2013

Councillor Iona Pannett, who holds the Council’s Heritage Portfolio, says the number of earthquake prone heritage buildings dropped from 198 in October 2014 to 157 in Dec 2017 - a 20% reduction – despite more buildings being added to the list over that time.

“The pace of work has definitely quickened recently. In 2014 we removed just four heritage buildings from the list. In 2017 it was 11 – that’s an increase of 175%.”

She says the Seddon and Kaikoura earthquakes and the introduction of new legislation have made owners more aware of the need to strengthen their buildings.

“And we are also hearing that tenants are more interested in heritage buildings with a higher building code percentage which also prompts building owners to take action.”

She says the story is even better than the statistics show.

“There are 19 buildings still on the list where the work has been completed and the owners are just waiting for a final sign-off under the Building Act, and a further 76 are actively being worked on. So in fact there are just 62 heritage buildings still needing to get started on the work.”

Councillor Sarah Free, who chairs the Council's Grants Subcommittee, says that for some heritage building owners affordability and access to finance are significant barriers to strengthening their heritage building, and that is why in 2015 the Council voted to increase the Built Heritage Incentive Fund by $600,000 per year to over $1 million annually.

"We know how important heritage buildings are to our history and sense of place, and how hard it is when cities lose a significant number of these buildings. We were very fortunate in the Kaikoura earthquake that our heritage buildings were not badly affected. Now we want to encourage owners to take prompt action to make sure they are strengthened and made safer. These buildings often house our cafes, restaurants and other businesses so also make an important contribution to our economy.”

Councillor Free says the fund provides a financial contribution in recognition of the extra complexity and expense of strengthening a heritage building, but it also sends a message that this work needs to be done.

“Once buildings are strengthened, they are not only protected for the future, but they are safer for everyone and have greater market appeal.”

Councillor Free says she would encourage anyone with a heritage building that needs strengthening to have a look at the fund and if necessary contact the Council's heritage team for advice. The next funding round for this year closes on 4 April.