The future of Dannevirke's historic Carnegie Centre is on shaky ground and last Tuesday's 6.2 magnitude earthquake didn't help.

"Staff carried out an inspection of the building because there were some questions after the 'quake," Tararua District Council's chief executive Blair King said.

The three council staff and King, a civil engineer, wanted to see if there had been some material damage to the already earthquake-prone building occupied by Tararua Community Youth Services.

"Yes, there is some more cracking, but nothing significantly structural," King said. "But the building is fairly decrepit."

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Tararua Community Youth Services are expected to vacate the building, which has just an 8 per cent rating, by the end of February.

Predominantly built from unreinforced masonry, with a risk of failing, or having already failed, the Carnegie's location immediately next to the footpath, skate bowl, road and right-of-way, means falling masonry is likely reach those areas in the event of a major earthquake.

Strengthening to bring it to 34 per cent of earthquake code, would cost more than $400,000 if done this year and the contractors were available. However, this $400,000 plus cost does not mean it would then be earthquake proof. It just means the building should be safe for evacuation.

A full refit of the building would add a further $400,000 to $600,000.
Council would need a budget of at least $1m, but at this level of cost, a new building or buildings could be constructed which are better fit for purpose.

District councillor Shirley Hull asked if there had been any interest from community groups in taking the building under their wing.

Council's governance manager, Richard Taylor, said this had been raised through previous submissions but nothing formal was ever received.
In 2014, during an annual plan hearing, Chris Southgate suggested the historic 1907 building be sold to a charitable trust for the peppercorn sum of $1.

At the time Southgate said the building has historical and architectural merit, but may not be the most suitable for its current use.

"But I've seen so much of our architectural heritage disappear out of town on the back of a truck that doing nothing is not an option," he said.

District councillor Peter Johns said gifting the building to some appropriate body would be the way to go.

"But, if the community wants to save this building, they need to get their act together," he said.

The Carnegie building is a Category 2 heritage building, but a report to district
councillors has said there have only been low levels of interest in retaining it because of the high cost of investment needed. It is however, one of the only few surviving buildings of its type in New Zealand.

Heritage New Zealand said it would be very supportive of seismic strengthening and for any applications to the Lottery Board for a conservation and maintenance plan, with costings, along with a feasibility study.

Dannevirke's Fountain Theatre has recently received a Heritage New Zealand grant.

Terry Hynes, a member of the Tararua Community Youth Services board has told the Dannevirke News, the organisation would prefer the building was demolished and a fit-for-purpose replacement built.

The demolition of the Category 2 building will require consent under the district plan, with the cost estimated to be between $40,000 and $60,000, depending on whether asbestos is found. It is also possible to retain a part of the facade as a memorial to the building and its history. This has not been costed but could be between $10,000 and $20,000.

The current value of the building is $60,000 and this would be written off. The land, valued at $45,000, could be sold or the site re-used.

Hynes said he was concerned there was mention of the council possibly using the land to build pensioner housing.

"It's an ideal site for youth services," he said.

And while the recommendation to council was to demolish the building, the report has been left to lie on the table to allow further discussions, with council's community facility portfolio holders to come back to council at their November meeting with their final recommendation.