Prominent multi-storeyed Hospital Hill, Napier, boarding hostel and former nurses' home Hinepare is closing - another casualty of nationwide structural risk assessment in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes.
It came as a big shock to hostel proprietors Bruce and Janet Raitt who established the business after leasing the building 14 years ago from the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS), a Government agency responsible for property landbanked for use in settlement of claims before the Waitangi Tribunal.
The Raitts are understood to have been told about a fortnight ago that the 60-year-old building doesn't meet National Building Standards. As the OTS had no plans to restrengthen the building, a meeting was called to tell residents they would have to go.
A tenant moving out yesterday expressed sorrow for the landlords and said residents had been given "plenty of time" to find alternatives, and some had "landed on their feet".
A sign beside the front entrance spelled out the situation: "Tenanted and less than 33 per cent of NBS. Area: Entire Hinepare Hostel building.
"The building owner is in possession of a building report which identifies this building as being potentially earthquake prone and posing a very high risk in the event of an earthquake."
From Australia on a pre-booked holiday with the grandchildren, Mrs Raitt told Hawke's Bay Today the couple had decided not to make public comment and inquiries should be directed to the OTS, but could not mask her dismay: "We're shocked."
She said they were grateful for help and support, including that of the Napier City Council as well as government agencies Work and Income and Housing New Zealand in working to resolve issues over the accommodation of residents, including seasonal influxes.
Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott, who lives only a few doors from the hilltop hostel alongside the old Napier Hospital, and which has views across Napier in one direction and over Ahuriri, Westshore and Bay View in the other, described the department decision as "another part of the paranoia" stemming from the earthquakes in Canterbury.
Buildings were being demolished and numerous others were threatened, with little regard for the heritage of the city.
"I think people have got to take a step back and think hard," she said.
"We want people to be safe, but we do know we can't totally earthquake-proof any building against any earthquake.
"We can't just go condemning them all on that sort of basis."
She said the hostel was "needed" in Napier and Mr and Mrs Raitt had done a "marvellous" job turning it around from a deteriorating state after the closure of the home along with the hospital. It had provided vital accommodation for people who had "assimilated well in our society and become much a part of Napier".
The hostel is one of 16 Napier sites the OTS manages.