Quake-prone heritage buildings threatened

Three of Palmerston North's earthquake-prone heritage buildings are facing partial or total demolition.

The parishes of All Saints and St Andrews churches and owners of the old police station are resisting proposed changes to the city's District Plan which could make it harder to get planning approval to alter them. Submissions on the Natural and Cultural Heritage section of the plan highlight the tension between a desire to preserve heritage buildings, and the likely costs and practicalities of making them safe.

The plan change proposes lifting the bar for alterations to heritage buildings from being a discretionary activity, to being a non-complying activity. All Saints Church has been closed since April last year after being assessed as meeting only 3 per cent of the current building code.

Vicar John Marquet has said the congregation wants to see it upgraded and re-opened, but it could take up to $4 million, and some changes were likely to be needed.

The church's submission said the council's proposals did not give enough weight to the likely need to demolish parts of the church to make it safe.

It also called for the council to increase the amount of money available through its incentive fund to preserve heritage buildings.

All Saints' temporary home for some of its services, St Andrews, is also facing earthquake strengthening challenges, and said the proposed rule changes would make its job harder.

St Andrews on Church St has a D rating, being 10 to 25 times more likely than a fully-compliant buildings to collapse in a moderate earthquake.

Its submission said an engineering report was likely to recommend either demolition or significant alterations and upgrades.

It would probably require changes to the outside appearance, and replacement of the concrete tile roof with lighter materials.

Across the road from St Andrews, the historic old police station faces the prospect of demolition, and its owners are resisting its listing as a heritage building in the plan.

It carries a category 2 listing with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust - now Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga.

The building, which has been empty since 2005, was landbanked in 2011 as surplus Crown property.

It is managed by the Office of Treaty Settlements pending its likely transfer to Rangitane o Manawatu on settlement of their Treaty claim, expected within a couple of months. Justice Ministry commercial and property manager Fraser Gibbs said the empty building was run down and had been subject to vandalism and break-ins.

Neither the Office of Treaty Settlements nor Rangitane were likely to be able to afford to strengthen it and return it to a useful condition. Demolition was considered "the only viable option".

The council has called for further submissions, which close on June 16.

Manawatu Standard