The heritage Thain's building in central Whanganui is to be demolished after it was ravaged by fire on Saturday.

Whanganui District Council chief executive Kym Fell announced on Wednesday afternoon the extensively fire-damaged building on the corner of Whanganui's Taupō Quay and Victoria Avenue cannot be saved.

The fire caused interior floors to collapse, making the building now too dangerous to enter and hotspots have been flaring up over the last few days. Police are investigating the cause of the fire.

Fell visited the site on Monday with building owner Bryce Smith and the council's building control manager Greg Hoobin.

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"An independent engineer was brought in to assess the damage and risks," Fell said.

"Unfortunately, as a result of the advice we have received, and in the interests of public safety, we are left with no choice but to issue a notice to demolish the building."

It was evident the building's supporting structures have been damaged beyond repair.

"There is essentially nothing holding it up and very little that can be salvaged. The fire has ripped through both upper storeys and left the building very unstable."

Adjacent restaurants La Quattro and Thai Villa are currently unable to operate, as there is a high risk that parts of 1 Victoria Avenue could collapse, impacting those buildings.

"The heritage values of this building were recognised in its 'Class B' listing in the Whanganui District Plan and along with a significant number of community submitters, the council opposed a resource consent application for demolition in 2018. As a council, we have worked hard to retain this building, so this is not a decision we are making lightly."

Hoobin said engineers have confirmed the building poses a significant danger to adjacent buildings and passersby.

"Heat has not only destroyed the framing of the building, it has also damaged the mortar between the bricks.

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"Temporary bollards and on-site security are in place to ensure the safety of the public. These will be replaced with chain link security fencing in the next few days. We also have Civil Defence and Downer personnel on stand-by in case of high winds, as roofing iron is currently unsecured, but cannot be safely reached.

"We will also assist with a controlled exit strategy which will be overseen by council officers. This will enable tenants some limited and monitored access to certain areas of the building so that they can retrieve essential belongings."

The Whanganui District Council says there is no choice but to demolish the building.
The Whanganui District Council says there is no choice but to demolish the building.

Bryce Smith and Sue Cooke, who purchased the Thain's building in 2018, said they have accepted it must come down.

"We had the best will in the world to renovate and maintain the building and were very invested in it as a part of Whanganui's heritage legacy," a statement said.

"Unfortunately the damage caused by the fire has been too extensive and we now have a structure that presents immediate and significant risks to the public.

"We are investigating options for scanning the building's remaining façade and heritage features. It may be that these can be replicated or incorporated in some way in the design of a future building on the site.

"Our intention initially will be to create a green space in the area, but the immediate priority must be to ensure there is no danger to the public."

Cooke said the fire was a tragedy for the building's tenants who had lost possessions and had their livelihoods disrupted.

The Thain's building has been declared a risk to adjacent buildings and passersby.
The Thain's building has been declared a risk to adjacent buildings and passersby.

Three of the tenants - Kit Lawrence, Johanna Pegler and Glen Hutchins - are established artists and all have lost irreplaceable artworks, Cooke said.

Patent attorney and photographer Antonia Sims and photographer Tania Warbrick, who had studios or workspaces at 1 Victoria Ave, have been offered interim workspaces at 69 Taupo Quay.

"Feltmaker Tina Schurhammer has lost her studio and the craft collective MINZ has lost their retail space," Cooke said.

"Robert Puklowski's Home Trust Mortgage and Tim Hocquard's sparkling new Hookers Real Estate office have disappeared; and Cindy Munn, who was due to open her health and wellbeing practice this week will be rethinking her plans."

Cooke and Smith have set up a Givealittle page to raise funds for the tenants and their builder. People can donate at https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/great-loss-as-heritage-building-burns

"Even those not immediately affected by the fire will acknowledge the gap it leaves. Whanganui is especially proud of its wealth of heritage buildings along Victoria Ave, and the Thain's building – a B-category listed heritage building erected early in the 1900s at the entry to the central avenue – is a prominent feature of that landscape."