Mayor defends quake policy

'I am deeply concerned'

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2013
Mayor John Coles
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

HERITAGE AT RISK: ‘‘This is something that could see Waimate’s main street flattened,’’ says Waimate Mayor John Coles of the Government’s proposed earthquake-prone buildings policy.

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Waimate Mayor John Coles is defending his patch, after allegations of scaremongering over earthquake-prone buildings.

His comments follow Minister of Building and Construction Maurice Williamson's accusations that southern councils are "punching at fog" over the Government's proposed earthquake-prone buildings policy.

Territorial authorities from Timaru south released a report last week predicting a $1.8 billion bill for assessing, strengthening and demolishing more than 7000 buildings.

Waimate faces $1.4 million in potential assessment costs and $26m in strengthening costs, with 140 seismic surveys required.

"The Government's proposals will have massive implications for all provincial towns; it is not scaremongering to keep the community's best interests at heart," Mr Cole says. "This is something that could see Waimate's main street flattened."

He says only two buildings in the main street are less than 100 years old.

"Waimate would be one of the few towns where its main street has such heritage and it is my fear that organisations and businesses will have to find alternative buildings and have to leave town."

Waimate's council was not forcing building owners to look at the safety of their properties, he said.

"However, property owners, I believe, will be responsible if their buildings are dangerous and take appropriate action.

"Waimate's stance has been to delay reviewing their earthquake prone, dangerous and insanitary building policy until the Government released their findings; this means, unless there is a change of use, or the building is deemed dangerous to public, the status quo remains."

He said the implications could be far-reaching in terms of building valuations and rating.

"If the valuations of Waimate's buildings were to diminish, the rural and residential community would have to pick up the tab of the rating imbalance. I am deeply concerned. Waimate has a high percentage of elderly people and the last thing I want to see is those people having to go to larger settlements to do their business if our town becomes a ghost town."

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- The Timaru Herald

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