Council to revamp quake strengthening fund rules

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 10:30 21/02/2013

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The majority of a fund designed to help cash-strapped owners of heritage buildings should be set aside for earthquake-strengthening, Wellington City Council has been told.

Councillors were due to consider a recommendation to earmark $300,000 of the $329,000 built heritage incentive fund for strengthening work today, but the item has now been deferred until a future meeting.

The fund is designed to help owners of heritage buildings with extra costs for upkeep and maintenance.

It is also recommended that a restriction on how often owners can apply be removed.

Under current rules, only one grant can be approved per building every three years. Officers are calling for that limitation to be removed for the next two funding rounds.

"Applicants will be able to apply for funding for different stages of earthquake strengthening work within a three-year cycle and have work completed faster," the report to councillors said.

Built environment portfolio leader Iona Pannett said she had been worried that targeting the fund to a specific type of project would disadvantage some owners, but it seemed to be the sensible approach "for a while".

"What I want to see is how many [heritage buildings] we can get over the line ... We just really want to give building owners as much help as we can."

The report also suggests appointing a staff member to specifically target heritage owners, to ensure the fund was fully utilised, instead of the current "reactive" approach.

A staff member had previously been appointed to administer a similar fund in 1998.

"Our experience ... was that a proactive management approach meant more successful strengthening and heritage outcomes were achieved from the available funding."

The "extra resource" would likely cost an extra $40,000 a year, the report said.

Ms Pannett said that approach could be worthwhile, if it would mean having a person able to champion for heritage needs while also balancing that against economic considerations.

The council was also continuing to investigate funding options for owners of non-heritage buildings requiring strengthening, she said.

Councillors will consider the report at a future strategy and policy committee.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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