There wouldn't be many comfortable with other people telling them what they can and can't do with their own property.

But that's what the owners of Thain's building at 1 Victoria Ave have faced.

They wanted consent to demolish the building they have owned since 1984, saying they cannot afford to do the earthquake-strengthening work required by legislation and are struggling to sell it under its current status.

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The community heavily opposed demolition, the Whanganui District Council recommended against it and the application has been declined - as it should have been.

Independent commissioner Rob van Voorthuysen made the right decision, really the only decision he could have.

The building, as he said, has "undisputed heritage value" and it's obvious its loss would have fundamentally changed Whanganui's CBD.

A win for Whanganui.

But that now means as a community we all have a stake in this building and any others we want to save from the scrapheap.

If we're going to demand control over privately owned buildings, it's only fair that we all take on some of the liability.

Regulation in the public good will always have some impact on individuals and that's the responsibility of owning anything that for whatever reason ends up something of public worth.

The owners of Thain's and others in this situation need help, be it technical or financial.


It's a fine balance, though, as any publicly supported improvements will likely end up as improvements to private assets.

But we've drawn a line in the sand over what we're not prepared to accept and now we need to work out how we deal with the problem that creates - and the council needs to lead it.

This decision against demolishing Thain's is the end of one chapter.

But it's only the introduction to a long and yet to be written story about what happens to Whanganui's heritage.