Work has started on earthquake strengthening Patea's iconic Hunter Shaw building so it can be re-opened for public use, says South Taranaki District Council's Deputy Mayor, Phil Nixon.

Nixon says the project will bring the building up to 67 per cent of the New Building Standard.

The 1930s building was closed in August 2013 after a detailed engineer's assessment found it to be earthquake-prone.

Nixon says the Hunter Shaw building is part of the unique streetscape of Patea and of South Taranaki's heritage.

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"The building is listed as a heritage building in the council's District Plan and is listed as a Category 2 heritage item by Heritage New Zealand (previously known as the New Zealand Historic Places Trust)."

"Hunter Shaw was a Whenuakura farmer who died in 1927 and generously left behind a large sum for various charitable institutions including the building of a town library," he says.

The strengthening work involves removing the floor, installing ground and structural beams, relining the internal walls and replacing the flooring.

"The aim is to keep the heritage features of the building while bringing it up to the appropriate safety standard.

"Members of the public will see no change to the building exterior."

Nixon says the council is very grateful to the Lotteries Community Facilities Fund which, along with the South Taranaki District Council are funding the project.

The building originally housed the Patea Public Library but in recent years it was used for council and community board meetings as well as a venue for community functions.

South Taranaki District Council communications manager Gerard Langford said it is likely that those functions will resume once the strengthening work is complete.

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The council opened Patea's newly refurbished town library in Egmont St on March 3.