'Time not right' for heritage plan

By John Maslin

Planned changes to Wanganui's historic building heritage needs to be sidelined because what the Wanganui District Council has in mind flies in the face of central government's consultation about earthquake-prone buildings.

Central city retailer John Anderson, an outspoken critic of the built heritage section of the council's District Plan - called Change 29 - had argued the time was not right and that it was too ambitious.

But in a later submission to the planned change, Mr Anderson says the consultation document into building seismic performance released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) was a "complete counter" to the change the council was promoting.

"The legislation, as proposed, will nullify Change 29," he said.

"If adopted, safety issues and demolition of earthquake-prone buildings will take precedence over aesthetic issues and retention of heritage buildings."

He said it would be logical to delay the adoption of any new policy regarding heritage buildings until after the Government had clarified its new regulations.

"To do otherwise is foolhardy and wasteful of resources, time, effort and money. It's not as if there aren't other issues demanding the attention of the council."

In his initial submission, Mr Anderson, a principal of Wanganui Furnishers, said while the proposal aimed to tighten up protection of the city's heritage buildings, the global financial crisis had heightened awareness of commercial costs and inefficiencies with some buildings.

He said the change would have a retrograde effect and added that a more creative approach was required to regenerate the CBD, based on sustainability and affordability.

That financial pressure meant owners, ratepayers, charitable trusts and central government would not be able to afford the change as it stood.

He said an unintended outcome would be the deterioration of the heritage fabric of the CBD, at a faster rate with commercial operators and developers choosing the easy option of development elsewhere.

He said he believed owners of built heritage should be allowed to maintain their properties "but not mandated to protect them".

He said legal requirements had not been met and, more importantly, the council had not made direct personal approaches nor hosted workshops or seminars with those interested or affected.

Mr Anderson said the small number and nature of the submissions to Change 29 "bears out our contention that (the change) is the brainchild of council officers and paid consultants".

He said the response to date showed that the change was not community-driven nor widely supported by the community.

"By and large it appears that the proposed change has got to this stage under the radar of people directly affected as well as the wider community," he said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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