A little is going to have to go a long way when they divvy up the $12 million Government has offered to help strengthen privately-owned heritage buildings.

In Whanganui there are only four buildings that are listed either as Heritage New Zealand category 1 or category 2 listed buildings and able to apply for funding.

Richard Thompson, who chairs Whanganui's earthquake-prone building taskforce, said while it may not be much, at least it's something.

But Mr Thompson said Government was anticipating something like 1000 owners applying for funding "so that sum is not much when you spread it around like that".


"However, the spirit of the announcement is good so we don't want to sound churlish."

He said the problem with the fund is that it's only for listed buildings and there were only four privately-owned listed buildings in Whanganui even though the city has a significant number of buildings that could be regarded as "heritage".

Any owner wanting to apply for funding needs to provide matching funding but Mr Thompson said he didn't think owners would have issues with that.

He said improvements continued to made as engineers and builders found ways to test properties and ways to strengthen them.

"We know the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is working at standardising the ways these buildings are tested so that's good. This is leading to innovations in the way they can be strengthened, using materials like carbon fibre and laminated plywood.

"There's increasing experience among the building trade too but there's still a lot of work to be done."

Mr Thompson said one problem remained for the owners.

"You can do a lot of work to strengthen a property but that doesn't translate into improving the value of the property or being able to get a better return on rentals."

He said the Whanganui taskforce would like to see a more generous offering coming from Government but not just focused on listed buildings.

"Mainstreet Whanganui has put together a list of about 40 buildings considered important in terms of the city's built heritage and it would be great if some funding assistance was made available to owners of those properties."

He said the taskforce was looking at possible funding options.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry said heritage buildings were an important part of the character of towns but the cost of strengthening can be prohibitive and unsustainable.

She said the fund will be available for all privately-owned Category 1 listed buildings across the country and for Category 2 listed heritage buildings in areas of high to medium seismic risk.

Whanganui is regarded as a medium seismic risk area.