Strengthening work led to closure

A retailer who closed his stores suddenly on Tuesday, says the cost and disruption of earthquake strengthening buildings is a risk to small Blenheim businesses.

Greg Hall shut his Blenheim Stirling Sports shop in Main St and his Nelson shop on Tuesday.

His family had owned the Blenheim business for 31 years, and it was an "emotionally sad time", he said.

"It's the end of one chapter and the beginning of another."

The shop closures meant the loss of one fulltime and six part-time jobs. He and a part-timer had worked in the Nelson shop.

He bought the Stirling Sports Nelson business three years ago.

The $350,000 cost of earthquake-proofing his building on the corner of Market and Main streets in Blenheim had been a big factor in having to close the businesses, he said.

"My business model required a certain amount of capital . . . the repairs took a big chunk of equity out of the business."

He believed other businesses and landlords would be affected as they dealt with the cost of quake proofing buildings, and finding temporary sites for their tenants to trade from.

"I had to focus on strengthening and building, instead of focusing on my business," he said.

The strengthening work did not increase the value of the building, but if landlords did not comply, they would struggle to get insurance and find tenants, he said.

He was pleased to have SBS Bank as the main tenant in the building because it was an attractive proposition for investors looking to buy the building, which had been on the market since October, he said.

His building was one of 23 in Blenheim and Picton under notice by the Marlborough District Council to be strengthened to meet earthquake standards or be demolished.

The Building Act 2004 required the council to adopt a policy addressing earthquake-prone buildings.

Councils needed to consider what impact the quake standard requirements had, he said.

Marlborough mayor Alastair Sowman said while he felt for Mr Hall, he had had some years notice that the building work was required.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager Brian Dawson said the new legislation put landlords in a tough position, but the Christchurch earthquakes showed the need for buildings to be safe.

"Landlords are definitely in a difficult situation having to fulfil their legal requirements and responsibility of public and staff safety."

The Marlborough Express