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Post Office too costly to save

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014
waimate post office
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ
BUYERS FOUND: Richard and Tracey Lane have bought Waimate's old post office.

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Waimate's old Post Office building is to be demolished, to the dismay of heritage advocates.

Richard and Tracey Lane have bought the council-owned building, with settlement date set for April 24.

However, Richard Lane said they had decided to demolish the building, as it would have cost more than $250,000 to strengthen it to the required standard.

"It's a decision I didn't want to make but, in the end, I simply couldn't make it work any other way," he said.

"I have a strong sentimental attachment to the building. My first ever job was at the Post Office."

He hoped the building replacing it would host about three businesses once complete. "It's a long process but I hope by this time next year, we would have at least started construction on the site," Lane said.

Waimate Edwardian Heritage Society secretary Elizabeth Niven was upset by the news.

"We hoped the the facade could have been maintained," she said. "The town does not have many buildings of this stature. It's always sad to see part of a place's history disappear."

The Waimate District Council sold the 104-year-old building to the Lanes after calling for expressions of interest.

A condition of the sale was the Lanes either upgraded it to meet 67 per cent of the new building standard, or replaced it with a commercial building within 12 months.

Lane said the council's approach was understandable, as prospective tenants had become more safety-conscious since the Christchurch earthquakes.

The Government's proposed changes to the Building Act will require all non-residential buildings to be seismically assessed within five years, and to meet 34 per cent of the current standard for new buildings within 15 years of being identified as earthquake-prone.

Niven was worried the changes to the act could affect the country's heritage building stock.

"I understand buildings need to be modernised for safety or commercial reasons, but I don't want towns to lose their heritage. We don't have that many heritage buildings, this could be the end of it," she said.

Council property manager Sue Kelly said an independent report revealed the old Post Office building was assessed to be "only 19 per cent" of the current building code.

The building houses the Waimate Information Centre.

Kelly said information centre staff would work through their future options with the purchasers. She would not reveal the building's sale price.

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- The Timaru Herald

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