Millions to repair Mona Vale, Municipal Chambers

Ratepayers face high-cost repairs for heritage

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2013
Mona Vale Homestead
CARYS MONTEATH

MONA VALE: The historic homestead at Mona Vale will be repaired at a cost of more than $2.8 million.

Our City Otautahi
John Kirk-Anderson
SHORTFALL: Insurance money is unlikely to cover the cost of repairing the badly damaged former Municipal Chambers.

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Insurance on two of the city's most prized heritage buildings will not cover full restoration leaving ratepayers to make up the shortfall.

The Christchurch city councillors have recommended repairing the Mona Vale Homestead at a cost of more than $2.8 million. This will bring the landmark building up to 67 per cent of the new building code.

The council's insurer has agreed to pay $2.2 million towards the homestead's repair and the council will dip into its Infrastructure and Building Improvement Fund for the remaining $600,000.

Meanwhile, an insurance shortfall means the council will need to find between $3 million and $5m if it wants to stabilise and restore the former Municipal Chambers building.

The historic building on the corner of Oxford Tce and Worcester Boulevard, now known Our City Otautahi, was severely damaged in the February 2011 earthquake and significant parts of it need rebuilding.

The problem is the council only had the distinctive red-brick building insured for $5.7m, which is unlikely to cover the cost of any of the three repair options it is considering.

A council report updating the status of the building says even bringing it up to 33 per cent of the new building code is likely to cost about $8.85m. Bringing it up to 67 per cent of code will cost about $8.89m, while base-isolating the building will cost an estimated $10.5m.

"Reinstatement cost is well in excess of the insured amount," the report says.

MONA VALE HOMESTEAD

The Mona Vale Homestead was designed by noted architect J.C. Maddison and built in 1899-1900 for Christchurch accountant Frederick Weymouth. In 1962 when the extensive grounds in which the homestead sits were in danger of being subdivided, the city mobilised and following a high profile campaign led by the Civic Trust Mona Vale passed into public ownership. 

For the past 40 year the house has been used as a function and wedding venue and the grounds have become one of the city's most treasured parks.

The Mona Vale Homestead suffered moderate damage in the September 2010 quake and severe damage in the February and June 2011 quakes. It has been stabilised but the exterior brick veneer is heavily damaged. There is significant cracking to the masonry walls, foundations and columns, and severe structural damage to the dining wing and rear entrance portion of the building. Brick chimneys have collapsed and the internal walls, ceilings and foundation have minor to severe cracks.

Engineers believe that over 70 per cent of the building's walls will need to be pulled down and reconstructed.

The building is too important to lose, say council staff.

''The Mona Vale Homestead is a valued community asset and significant landmark. When conserved, strengthened and repaired it will be able to resume functioning as a restaurant, wedding and meeting venue. It will remain a tangible reminder of the grand homesteads built in spacious grands at the beginning of the twentieth century in Christchurch,'' a report prepared for this morning's community committee meeting stated.

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The committee voted unanimously to proceed with the repair work.

It is anticipated the repairs will take about 18 months.

OUR CITY OTAUTAHI

Completed in 1887, the former Municipal Chambers building was designed by renowned architect Samuel Hurst Seager in the Queen Anne style.

It is the only purpose-designed civic office building built for the Christchurch City Council and functioned as the centre of local government until 1924.

Known today as Our City Otautahi it carries the top heritage listing possible under both the Christchurch City Plan and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Dr Ian Lochhead, chairman of heritage advocacy group Iconic, said it was vital Our City Otautahi was saved, regardless of the cost.

It was the first significant work of one of the most renowned architects of the period and the first building to introduce the Queen Anne Revival style to New Zealand. It also housed two of the most important pieces of 19th century British sculpture in New Zealand - the figures of Industry and Concord by Sir George Frampton.

"The costs involved, in spite of the woeful insurance cover, are not that great when we consider the cost of restoring the Arts Centre or the sums being spent on the Avon River Park [$100m] and that is not even broken," Lochhead said.

"While I appreciate that council has major financial issues to grapple with, $3m above insurance cover to ensure the future of a key heritage building is surely worthwhile."

Lochhead said he would advocate spending the greater sum to base-isolate the building because of its architectural and historical significance and because it would allow a less intrusive strengthening programme on the structure above ground.

The council's community committee will consider the status report on Our City Otautahi when it meets this morning.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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