Nine people are locked out of their homes and several businesses are in limbo after a historic Masterton building was today confirmed as dangerous.
The Daniell's Building in Queen St, Masterton was damaged in yesterday's earthquake and council-appointed engineers spent today examining it in detail after an interim dangerous building declaration was made yesterday. This afternoon they made that declaration definitive, Wairarapa civil defence controller Kevin Tunnell said.
"No resident or occupier can go back into that building," he said.
"The building will have to be strengthened or demolished"
Anyone re-entering a building designated as dangerous could be heavily fined, and the Christchurch quake experience showed residents could find themselves locked out for two weeks or more because of the danger of aftershocks.
"If there's no legal way for these people to re-enter, they may be locked out – that's one possible scenario," Tunnell said.
He said the building contained seven dwellings inhabited by nine people, including two couples, and for the moment displaced tenants would not be allowed to recover their possessions. They would be invited to a meeting at the Masterton District Council to discuss their accommodation, clothing and other needs, and would be looked after "one way or another", he said.
Several business owners on the ground floor would also not be allowed back and the building would be secured.
A decision on the building's future would be made following discussions between the council, engineers and building owner Garry Daniell, Tunnell said.
Daniell, a former Masterton mayor, said he had not yet been told of any definitive engineering report but would be guided by the engineers' recommendations.
"The condition of the building is the main criteria," he said.
Yesterday he said he doubted it would be economic to strengthen the building, which was built by his great-grandfather in 1925 to keep his construction gang employed. It had belonged to the family almost continuously since then.
He bought it back after the family estate sold it, with the intention of continuing its retail and residential businesses.
The Historic Places Trust has called on Daniell and the owners of other quake-damaged buildings to seek advice from its "heritage engineers" before deciding on demolition.
"One would hope in this case they look at other options than demolition . . . there may be a way in which this building can be saved and restored," the Trust's central region co-ordinator David Watt said.
The building is not listed with the trust but mR Watt said it was a prominent structure in Masterton and had strong architectural features.
"It has a strong presence in Queen St and a lot of these buildings can be lost if you don't look at all the options," Watt said.
District planner Sue Southey said the building was also not on Masterton District Council's heritage buildings list so no special permission would be required to demolish it.
- Fairfax Media