Brick buildings' fate in balance

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 08:00 02/02/2013

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The survival of two Palmerston North Hospital brick buildings depends on whether saving them is cost-effective.

The single-storey section of the board office on Heretaunga St and the nearby administration building, with its distinctive pillars, are earthquake risks and will be closed at the end of April.

MidCentral District Health Board commercial manager Jeff Small is still waiting for detailed engineering reports and costings before decisions are made about whether to strengthen or demolish the buildings.

Along with three other board-owned buildings that need less urgent strengthening work, the offices have been added to the latest version of the city council's list of earthquake-prone buildings published on its website yesterday.

The other board buildings are the Education Centre, Pullar Cottage and an unoccupied house on Heretaunga St.

The Ashhurst Catholic Church and the frontage of the Manawatu Standard building are other additions to the list.

The old Glaxo factory at Bunnythorpe and several buildings that were brought into the city from Manawatu district in last year's boundary change have also been added.

But the list is slightly shorter than it was, with some buildings being deleted.

The Te Awe Awe flats were removed after strengthening work was carried out, and the Commercial building next to the city library on The Square and the White Horse Inn at Longburn were removed after re-assessments.

"It simply should never have been on it," said Longburn publican Bruce McGuigan. He arranged a re-assessment, which resulted in the building's rating against the Building Code improving from 9 per cent to 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, plans are under way for health board staff to vacate the two hospital buildings identified as being at risk.

Mr Small said offices around the campus were being found to accommodate staff.

Decisions were yet to be made about whether they would ever move back in.

"We will upgrade if it is cost-effective. We have to be very practical.

"If the buildings are so far gone that we can't strengthen them . . . these things happen. But we are still waiting for the final reports and costings to decide whether they need to be demolished or can be upgraded."

While the two buildings have a history, with the single-storey board room wing having once housed the maternity unit and delivery suite, they are not listed as heritage buildings.

City council policy planner Matthew Mackay said the list of buildings recognised in the district plan did not capture all of the city's buildings that had heritage value.

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As decisions about buildings such as those at the hospital were faced, the Christchurch earthquakes would start to focus public debate about the ramifications.

"We have not started to see any physical changes to the city yet," he said.

Communities needed to be involved in the debate about whether to remove all risks, and lose heritage buildings in the process.

City council senior information officer Patrick Reedy said that henceforth, the earthquake-prone buildings list would be regularly updated on the council's website as buildings were strengthened, and new assessments came in.

- Manawatu Standard

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