Death knell for CBD?

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013

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Timaru property owners could face $211 million in bills and the whole district an annual rate increase of 2 per cent for five years, if the Government's proposed rules governing earthquake-prone buildings become law.

A shocked Mayor Janie Annear predicts the proposals could be "absolutely devastating" for the district.

Ten South Island councils combined to look at what would happen if the Government goes ahead with shorter time-frames for earthquake-prone buildings to be assessed and strengthened, and greater accountabilities and costs on local authorities.

The councils believe as many as 22,600 rural and urban buildings from Timaru south may need assessment under the proposal, with upwards of 7440 requiring demolition or strengthening.

While Timaru faces the biggest bill among the local councils, the Waimate District Council expects 140 buildings will need to be assessed, at a cost of $1.4m, and Mackenzie has 130 buildings and an estimated assessment bill of $700,000.

In Timaru the assessments would cost the council $3.6m, and require a 2 per cent increase in rates for five years.

"I was shocked," Mrs Annear said.

"I don't believe ratepayers could afford that."

The methodology for carrying out the assessments was still unknown.

"This is the single biggest issue [facing the council] for many, many years.

"It could be absolutely devastating for the central business district and small towns. I am not sure the Government realised the potential impact," she said.

Provincial New Zealand would be hardest hit by the proposed changes, as towns like Timaru had 34 per cent more buildings that required assessment than larger centres with more modern structures.

If the proposals became law, the district could lose its historic buildings. She said the mix of old and new was very important to this community.

"There is a risk we would lose the central business district. There could be scattered ribbon development throughout the district."

The ramifications were huge socially, historically and economically.

"At the rate the Government is suggesting, it is unaffordable. The figures show it. It is very, very clear what the impact could be.

"We are coming out of a recession and we cannot afford not to keep going forward. But where is the money going to come from? Who is going to pay?"

In the meantime Mrs Annear said the safety of many of the buildings could be quickly and cheaply improved if work were done on parapets and verandas.

"We need to remember one person in a million is killed in an earthquake; one in 10,000 is killed in a car."

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- The Timaru Herald

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