Owners angry at council review

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 12/06/2012

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Property owners whose homes and buildings have been included in a review of the city's heritage buildings are angry they weren't asked first, and at the potential cost of their upkeep in a climate of concern over building strength.

About 40 people attended one of a series of public meetings at the city council yesterday on its heritage inventory project, which is in the early stages of development.

Revision of the district plan heritage list is required by the Resource Management Act, and Nelson is one of several local authorities undertaking the exercise.

Most of Wolfe St above Washington Rd has been included in the city council review. Other new proposed areas include a section of Mount St, three properties in Haven Rd, four properties in Fifeshire Crescent/ Britannia Heights and the Brougham/Bronte streets area.

Council planning adviser Peter Rawson said many properties had been identified as possibly being worthy of protection.

The council said recently that draft heritage assessments of all the properties and sites were sent to the landowners concerned and most had been contacted by phone, but several at yesterday's meeting were upset to find their property listed on a website that contained details of the project, without their knowledge.

The council said it took down the website just before yesterday's meeting.

Nelson resident Paul Hufflett said family members had discovered their homes listed without prior notice. He asked the council yesterday if it had considered the rights of any property owners.

Nelson resident Peter Robins, who owns a heritage property, said the scheme was great in principle but what had emerged in recent years were factors around safety and energy conservation.

"If I was to enter the scheme now I would be concerned about the meshing of those issues."

Mr Robins said, for example, if it was too difficult for people to install something like a solar energy system on a heritage property, the scheme would collapse.

He also questioned how the scheme might deal with structures such as chimneys on heritage homes in the new environment of strengthening earthquake-prone buildings.

Helen Vesper co-owns three properties in Haven Rd included in the proposed new heritage precinct, but they were issued with section 124 notices after they were damaged in the December landslips. She said yesterday it was unlikely they would be made liveable within a year.

Mrs Vesper also questioned how the houses would fit within a heritage model with a large retaining wall behind them that was needed to stabilise the bank.

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Gary Clover, of the Stoke Methodist Church, said he was shocked to find their building in the plan, which potentially placed the largely volunteer organisation which ran the church in a situation they would be unable to handle.

Councillor Rachel Reese, who is also part of the heritage working party, said they were legitimate concerns but the plan at this stage was only a proposal and it had a long way to go before any decisions were made.

Mr Rawson said the council was aware earthquake strengthening was a big concern for a lot of property owners, and would be working with them to reach a solution that met safety and heritage requirements.

The council already has several heritage precincts around Nelson, including Elliott, South and Russell streets, to help preserve the look of these areas.

Mr Rawson said the council reviewed how it protects heritage with a "thematic" overview earlier this year. A team of consultants with heritage expertise assessed buildings, sites, areas and items that were considered worth protecting.

Nelson resident Neil Deans, who has lived in Elliott St for 20 years, said at yesterday's meeting there were many positive aspects to owning a heritage property, including increased value, rates rebates and the offer of financial assistance for renovations. He advised people to make it work to their advantage rather than feel it was being imposed on them.

Feedback is invited until July 20. A comprehensive process of research, draft plan development and further public consultation will follow.

- Nelson

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