Spending billions of dollars nationwide to try to earthquake-proof buildings -- which often leads to owners wrecking them instead -- has been described by a Masterton businessman as "nuts".

Brent Goodwin, who owns Regent3 Cinemas, said beautiful old buildings that should be heritage listed are being bulldozed, particularly in provincial centres because the cost of trying to reach earthquake standards is more than landlords can either meet or are willing to try.

His comments came in the wake of similar sentiments expressed by Ron Mark, deputy leader of New Zealand First, at a parliamentarian committee meeting discussing an earthquake-prone buildings amendment bill.

Mr Mark said there was a "whole bunch of people" keen to preserve the fabric, culture and the aesthetic appeal of rural towns by making sure heritage buildings were looked after.


He said not all buildings the committee had been discussing are considered heritage buildings even though they had high character value.

Landlords might think it easier to "run a bulldozer through the damn building" rather than try to meet the required standard and, as an example, "there goes a cinema in Masterton that actually has typical rural appeal and high aesthetic value to the community".

Costs and lack of tax concessions could lead to owners taking a stance such as "we will knock it down and build a single-storey building, get a Skyline garage in and run our business out of that", Mr Mark said.

Other examples could be old pubs, he said.

"We have got old pubs all over rural provincial New Zealand. They are not considered heritage buildings."

Commenting on the MP's remarks, Mr Goodwin said it was good to see Mr Mark raising the issue.

He said his earthquake-strengthened theatre is likely to be "among the strongest buildings in New Zealand" but is yet to be formally assessed.

"I will have that done within the next year or two," Mr Goodwin said.

He said the stage area in the theatre will probably need to be strengthened further.

The Regent Theatre was built in 1930, six years before there was a building code.

Mr Goodwin said landlords in metropolitan centres could demand top rents from tenants and use the money to earthquake-proof buildings but that was not the case in the provinces.

He said it should be remembered, despite the Christchurch earthquake tragedy, that the number of lives lost in earthquakes over the years was far fewer than those who died through drowning, or suicide.

"Yet we want to spend $12billion strengthening buildings, money that could be spent on health or making our roads safer -- it's nuts," he said.