The distinctive clock tower on Palmerston North's historic T&G building could fall victim to the earthquake that has not yet struck.
The Broadway building was listed as earthquake prone this year, meeting just 20 per cent of building code standards after an initial assessment.
Company director Craig Dunlop confirmed the owners were considering whether they could "take some weight off" the 1938 structure to bring it close to the code.
"We are exploring the possibility of having the tower taken off and turning it into a rectangular building."
The building carries a Category 2 Historic Places listing, and is a Category 1 heritage building in the city's District Plan.
Mayor Jono Naylor said it would be a sad thing to lose such an important feature of Palmerston North's skyline. He has spoken out several times about the country's proposed new policies for dealing with old buildings.
He said the cost of earthquake strengthening and the likely loss of buildings seemed out of proportion to the risks.
"I'm still perplexed, and I think using a percentage of the building code is a very blunt instrument."
Mr Naylor said the indications were that building owners would have time to consider their options and make decisions, and his plea was they did not rush into anything.
Historic Places Trust Manawatu-Horowhenua chairwoman Cindy Lilburn also called for more time.
"The Government has recommendations, but nothing is law yet. There is time.
"This could be the beginning of people starting to make their minds up far too quickly."
Ms Lilburn was optimistic that a detailed engineering report would show the T&G building was stronger than the initial assessment showed.
She said the tower was a keynote feature just off The Square.
"It is probably the nicest example of art deco we have got. It would be just a box without the tower."
Palmerston North already has a history of moving a clock tower because of an earthquake.
The tower of the former Chief Post Office, now High Flyers, was removed following an earthquake in 1942, and the clock was rehomed in the Clock Tower in The Square in 1957. Palmerston North City Council policy planner Matt Mackay said the council was keen to work with owners of heritage buildings to find ways they could be preserved.
He said the threat to the T&G tower was an early example of "where the rubber meets the road" in responding to the risks around earthquake prone buildings.
There needed to be dialogue about how to strike a balance about how much of the city's heritage could be preserved.
Mr Mackay said engineers around New Zealand were working on a variety of solutions that would enable heritage buildings to be strengthened, not lost.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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