Government grant to help Lambretta's building meet quake rules
The home of a landmark Nelson cafe is getting Government help to meet new earthquake strengthening requirements.
The former New Zealand Insurance building in Hardy St that houses Lambretta's Cafe will receive a $94,700 grant to help meet the estimated $300,000 cost of strengthening work.
The grant is the first to a Nelson building from the Earthquake Upgrade Incentive Programme, Heritage (EQUIP).
New building laws that came into effect on July 1 this year require either an upgrade or replacement of buildings that pose a significant risk to life in an event of an earthquake.
The new laws mean owners face difficult decisions over whether to carry out costly repairs or potentially demolish their buildings.
Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith, who announced the grant today, said Lambretta's was one of a number of historic buildings that gave Nelson its character.
"I think we are going to have to be pragmatic, we will lose some, but it will be a tragedy to lose them all.
"And so I've got this really difficult tension between heritage and safety."
The two-storey building is 61 years old and is listed as a category two historic place.
Lambretta's co-owner Leanne Odey said the core of popular cafe was fundamentally linked to the historic building.
Odey said when she and partner Rhys first leased the property 18 years ago they "themed our restaurant around the building".
Strengthening work is currently being done on the upper floor, but Odey said at some point the downstairs area that Lambretta's occupied would need to follow.
She hoped it would be possible to do the strengthening work without having to close the cafe for long.
"If it's going to be done it's going to be done. I got some warning, we just have to make provisions for it really.
"It would be a shame to lose the building so you want to do your best to make it work."
Ben van Dyke, whose Van Dyke Family Trust owns the building, said the total cost of the earthquake strengthening would be about $300,000.
"We feel that we couldn't probably have done it [without the grant]," he said.
He said the trust was stuck between a rock and a hard place as there was a lack of structural engineers in the country to assess buildings affected by the law change, and councils had been put under pressure to make all buildings comply to the new standards.
"So you have to pay the engineer, you have to pay the council, you have to do all this stuff and a lot of people have just given up," he said.
"It's a big can of worms here. This is a building built by the government, New Zealand Insurance, and yet we're under all this pressure."
Van Dyke said he hoped the work on the upstairs area would be finished in a couple of months.
"We've got a whole lot of steel up there, it smells like a welding shop.
"When the upstairs is done the downstairs will comply to some degree but we're not sure.
"So there is work that needs to be done downstairs, it can be done in stages ... [but] there is obviously [a] concern, [Lambrettas] don't want to close."
Smith said Nelson was of similar earthquake risk to Christchurch and "it's inevitable we will one day be hit with a significant quake".
"Having been up to my eyeballs in challenges in Christchurch and dealt with the grieving families, we've got a real duty to make our buildings safer.
"Some of the buildings are going to be too expensive to upgrade. The Government by providing grants is trying to entice owners to take the plunge and to strengthen their existing heritage buildings so we don't lose them all."