Old building may crumble into 'state of neglect'

Palmerston North’s old police station needs someone to care for it.
Palmerston North’s old police station needs someone to care for it.

The prospect of Palmerston North's old police station being allowed to crumble into a state of demolition by neglect has been spelt out to planning commissioners.

The Office of Treaty Settlements is opposing the inclusion of the Church St property as a heritage building in a proposed change to the natural and cultural heritage section of the District Plan.

The 1938 building has been empty for nine years, and was listed on the Heritage New Zealand (formerly Historic Places Trust) register in 2010. It was land-banked in 2011 for potential Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

But Ministry of Justice landbank asset manager Niru Govind told a hearing yesterday local iwi Rangitaane o Manawatu did not want it.

The property was already an unattractive one because of the building's earthquake-prone status - meeting only 11 per cent of the new building code, with an E grading.

The challenge would be compounded by additional controls likely to be imposed if it was listed in the District Plan.

"If mandatory restrictive covenants are placed on these sites they become undesirable to Treaty claimants," she said.

It was likely to take many years before the station could be offered for sale on the open market, and meantime, the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) had no money to maintain or restore it.

Govind said a leak at the rear of the first floor had already resulted in significant damage to the building that had been subject to break-ins and vandalism.

The site has a total capital value of $2.6m, but most of that value, $2.275m, is the value of the land alone.

OTS consultant planner Lisa Poynton said her client had no capacity to improve the building, which would likely be expensive, and obtaining consent to demolish would also be a costly exercise.

Any future owner would face the same challenges.

Poynton said if the commissioners did not agree to remove the building from the list, they should at least acknowledge an agreement with Heritage New Zealand that recognised the building facing Church St, minus a front porch and the right-hand second storey that was added later, were where the heritage values lay.

The deal would release the garages and sundry outbuildings that covered much of the balance of the site from heritage protection rules.

Heritage New Zealand adviser Jillian Kennemore said the organisation would rather see the building remain on the list, but agreed the original street frontage was the most important part.

Hearing chairman Chris Mitchell said commissioners had visited the building and found it "derelict".

He said it was a shame that the Crown would allow a public building to deteriorate so much.

"There are issues of good citizenship here.

"It is unfortunate that time might actually resolve the issue if it becomes so derelict nothing can be done with it."

Manawatu Standard