Historic house at risk

22:40, Aug 19 2014
The Te Henui Vicarage has been deemed an earthquake risk and Cecily Bull of the New Plymouth Potters, which operates out of the building, says it would be a tragedy if the vicarage had to close.

One of Taranaki's oldest buildings is an earthquake risk and will need an upgrade that could cost up to $100,000.

The New Plymouth District Council has said the historic Te Henui Vicarage has been confirmed as earthquake-prone.

Jeremy Wichman, the council's team leader of asset management, said it now had to be decided whether the work could be done within existing budgets or if the project would be considered next year in the long term plan.

"We'll contact Heritage New Zealand about getting approval to strengthen the vicarage, which will cost between $50,000 and $100,000 depending on what other maintenance work is done at the same time," Wichman said

"In the meantime we'll have a sign on the site that advises of the building's earthquake-prone status, and we'll keep the building open for use by the tenant."

Te Henui Vicarage was built about 1843 and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Zealand, making it a category one historic building. It is leased to New Plymouth Potters.


Cecily Bull, president of the potters, said the club had been using the vicarage since 1974 and would stay open unless they were stopped by the council.

"I can't bear the thought of losing this.

"We get to sell our work here, but at the same time we open the building on behalf of the council and Heritage New Zealand, so we can share this building with the public."

The vicarage is the remaining section of the house occupied by the first vicar in the early years of the New Plymouth settlement.

The house, at 288 Courtenay St, was bought from St Mary's Church by the council in 1949 and later restored by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Bull said it would be a great loss to the community if the building had to be shut or condemned because of new earthquake rules. She questioned whether the cost of strengthening the building would outweigh the risk of a person being hurt in an earthquake.

"There are so many buildings that need to be repaired now. It's an absolute tragedy."

The council's Earthquake-Prone Buildings Policy requires public buildings to meet at least 34 per cent of the New Building Standard, and encourages building owners to strengthen their buildings to 67 per cent or higher.

The council is evaluating the earthquake resilience of all of its public buildings and has determined that the vicarage has a seismic capacity of 18 per cent of the new building standard.

Taranaki Daily News