Masterton building damaged in quake

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 15:56 21/01/2014

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Wairarapa

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Nine people are locked out of their homes and several businesses are in limbo after a historic building was confirmed as dangerous.

The Daniell's Building in Queen St, Masterton was damaged in yesterday's quake and council-appointed engineers spent today examining it in detail after an interim dangerous building declaration was made yesterday. This afternoon they made that declaration definitive, Wairarapa civil defence controller Kevin Tunnell said.

"No resident or occupier can go back into that building, the building will have to be strengthened or demolished," Mr Tunnell said.

He said anyone re-entering a building designated as dangerous could be heavily fined, and the Christchurch quake experience showed that residents could find themselves "locked out" for two weeks or more because of the danger of after shocks.

"If there's no legal way for these people to re-enter they may be locked out - that's one possible scenario."

He said the building contained seven dwellings inhabited by nine people, including two couples, and for the moment displaced tenants would not be allowed to recover their possessions. They would be invited to a meeting at the Masterton District Council to discuss their accommodation, clothing and other needs and looked after "one way or another", he said.

Several business owners on the ground floor would also not be allowed back in and the building would be secured.

A decision on the building's future would be made following discussions between the council, the engineers and building owner Garry Daniell, Mr Tunnell said.

Mr Daniell, a former Masterton mayor, said he had not yet been informed of any definitive engineering report but would be guided by the engineers' recommendations. "The condition of the building is the main criteria."

He said yesterday he doubted it would be economically viable to strengthen the building.

The building was constructed by his great-grandfather to keep his construction gang employed and it has almost always belonged to the family since then. He bought it back after the family estate sold it, with the intention of continuing its retail and residential businesses.

He said he understood all the building's tenants were being taken care of but did not want to comment on whether he would be involved in their welfare.

The Historic Places Trust has called on Mr Daniell and other owners of quake-damaged buildings to seek advice from its "heritage engineers" before deciding on demolition.

"One would hope in this case they look at other options than demolition... there may be a way in which this building can be saved and restored," said the Trust's central region coordinator David Watt.

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The building, constructed in 1925, is not listed with the Trust but Mr Watt said it was a prominent structure in Masterton and had strong architectural features. "It has a strong presence in Queen St and a lot of these buildings can be lost if you don't look at all the options."

The Daniell's Building in Queen St is also not on Masterton District Council's heritage buildings list and so no special permission would be required to demolish it, district planner Sue Southey said. 

- The Dominion Post

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