Dated heritage ruling 'killing' Winton

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2014
John McHugh
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
ANOTHER ONE DOWN: Winton Community Board chairman John McHugh laments the closure of another Winton Business. Little Angels has closed its doors.

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Winton's town centre will die if its historic heritage status is not removed, the community board says.

Winton Community Board chairman John McHugh said a well-intentioned decade-old plan to protect and preserve Winton's heritage was now killing the town.

At the time several buildings in the central Southland town were assessed and registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as the Winton Great North Road Historic Area.

However the heritage tags, coupled with the building regulations after the Christchurch earthquakes, were forcing business owners and tenants to close their doors and walk away, McHugh said.

"There are four or five empty buildings and that will increase without immediate action," he said.

"The buildings in the precinct are all earthquake prone and no interested commercial operator would be prepared to upgrade buildings which were earthquake prone and have NZHPT historic significance attached to them."

For many business owners and landlords, it would cost more to strengthen their buildings to earthquake standards than to rebuild, McHugh said.

With a historic building stamp rebuilding was not an option.

Some developers had expressed interest in Winton's town centre but the processes and costs involved have been too great, he said.

There are 20 buildings within the Great North Road Historic Area, of which three are protected under the Southland District 2001 Plan and are listed as Category 2 NZHPT buildings, McHugh said.

The Winton Community Board will petition to uplift the heritage area status for the town centre at today's submissions hearings for the proposed Southland District Plan 2012.

"The council may not be able to lift the status themselves but they have more power and sway to get the job done than we do as a community board," McHugh said.

What was classified as historic significance in 2001 was no longer relevant in 2013 and beyond, he said. A balance between protection or restoration and development was needed.

"We can get that balance right if we keep the Category 2 listed buildings but lift the historic heritage ones and entice business," he said.

The board was in no doubt Winton's commercial area would die if the classification remained on the buildings, he said.

"These classifications needed to be uplifted so Winton can grow and develop in future years." neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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- The Southland Times

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