Quake-risk houses to be torn down

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 09:00 15/03/2014

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Five of Palmerston North's vacant state house buildings are to be demolished next month because they are potentially earthquake prone, Housing NZ has announced.

But while that represents some progress with the city's empty state houses, it's not enough for Labour MP for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway, who said Housing NZ was dragging its feet on the issue.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he had been told Housing NZ was demolishing five buildings in the Rugby St, Awapuni area.

"The plan is to demolish them, but after that there is no further plan in place," he said. "What we want to see is what they are doing to ensure there's an adequate amount of good housing available for people."

In 2012 Housing NZ declared 21 state housing buildings in the city earthquake prone. They have been untenanted since. Flats in Rugby St have been empty for several years, while a plot of land in Botanical St that was home to state houses has been bare for at least five years.

Mr Lees-Galloway said these assets had been mismanaged when they should have been renovated or sold, with the money reinvested into state housing.

A Housing NZ spokeswoman would not confirm yesterday which buildings were being demolished.

But property services general manager Marcus Bosch said: "Five unsafe state house buildings in Palmerston North will be demolished next month."

"Because they have such a low rating, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for us to make them safe for tenants.

"They also require significant upgrade to make them warmer and drier. We have low demand for housing in the area and enough properties to house those in need. It simply doesn't make sense for us to strengthen them.

"Once the buildings are removed the land will be tidied up and left as green space, which we will maintain until any development plans are progressed."

Mr Bosch said a decision about the future of the 16 other buildings in Palmerston North that were assessed as earthquake prone was due in April. "These buildings were assessed as having slightly higher new build standard ratings so we are awaiting the results of some force testing."

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- Manawatu Standard

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