Stratford shops ail as quake code hits
Leases sap confidenceBETHANY PEARSON
Stratford's main street shops are shutting their doors because some building owners say they are unable to meet tough new earthquake regulations.
Many of the town's old concrete buildings were now empty because they were on land claimed by the Office of Treaty Settlement for possible handover to local iwi, real estate chief Peter McDonald said.
Without owning the land, owners had decided it was simply not worth the cost of earthquake strengthening.
Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke is keeping a close eye on Parliament as it debates the earthquake policy. "It's sad for the smaller rural towns," he said. "Cities tend to develop and replace themselves but this could really throw a spanner in the works for us."
Mr McDonald, a director of McDonald Real Estate, said it was an unfortunate circumstance in an otherwise thriving town.
Many of the buildings on Broadway were originally owned by the railways, later sold to the Crown who then gave it to the Treaty office for Maori land claims.
"With each review, the leases are going up, and owners of buildings have no confidence to redevelop to meet the Earthquake Commission's standards when they're on another person's land," Mr McDonald said.
Lack of interest in the buildings had caused prices to drop drastically, Mr McDonald said.
"The end result is that many of the buildings will have to come down," he said.
An owner of one of the landbanked buildings, which had been in his family for years, said it seemed like there were hardly any shops still open on their side of Broadway.
"The whole situation is dismal," said the owner, who the Taranaki Daily News agreed not to name.
"Owners aren't going to spend any money on them, there is too much uncertainty."
Deputy Mayor Alan Jamieson said the empty shops on Broadway affected how the town was perceived.
He thought it was a shame to see the town suffering because of that image, as it was humming beyond the main street.
According to the Treaty office, the properties are potentially being held for Ngaruahine and Ngati Maru iwi. The properties are not part of the Ngaruahine settlement at this stage and Ngati Maru are yet to enter negotiations.
They said the issue of earthquake strengthening was the problem of the building owners, not them, as they only owned the land.
However, the building owner said the landbanking was rendered pointless because of the earthquake regulations, because if they decided to give the land to the iwi, businesses would clear out and the iwi would be left with a huge demolition job.
Bethany Pearson is a Whitireia journalism school student.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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