Owners of 10 central Whanganui heritage buildings have been granted a total of $388,733 in Government funding towards earthquake strengthening.
Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Grant Robertson announced the latest grants from the Heritage EQUIP programme on Wednesday.
"In the latest funding round, owners of eight buildings in the Whanganui town centre worked with each other to get advice required to progress their projects," Robertson said.
"Funding for the eight buildings totals $154,033, which contributes to the first stage of costs in getting structural assessments and designs.
"The Heritage EQUIP programme recognises the challenges in the regions for heritage building owners to get the expertise and support they need in order to keep their buildings safe. I commend the Whanganui District Council and the owners of these eight buildings who have worked together to secure funding.
"The historic Johnston & Co Building in the Whanganui CBD receives $220,000 to progress comprehensive structural strengthening. The building is a prominent heritage feature as you enter the town centre so it's great to be able to support the strengthening work.
"The remaining funding of $14,700 has been granted to the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga category 2 building on 3 Rutland St, for detailed structural design."
The buildings that received funding are the Thai Villa, La Quattro, Spice Guru, and Harcourts buildings in lower Victoria Ave; the former Post Office building on the corner of Victoria Ave and Ridgway St; 177 Victoria Ave; the Cosmopolitan Club and the two buildings to the north along Drews Ave; 3 Rutland St; and the Johnston & Co building, 49 Taupo Quay.
Hadleigh Reid, who owns the former Cosmopolitan Club building and the buildings at 40 and 42-44 Drews Ave, was part of the multiple building owner application, with his nationally-listed Cossie Club building key to the application process.
"I was motivated at this point in time because there's funding available to at least get the detailed design set up and possibly some funding for the strengthening," Reid said.
Strengthening work would ensure public safety and the future security and preservation of old buildings, Reid said.
"This was an opportunity to take the next step. I see it as a catalyst to get things done. As a heritage building owner, I've found it's really easy to be reluctant to do anything like this because it's quite major and quite expensive.
"It doesn't necessarily help when you're using the building already and have got it tenanted. I can see why there's been a lot of hesitation on the part of a lot of building owners but I think this fund is good because it gives you a bit of extra motivation to get on to making it better."
With the requirement to do the strengthening work in the future anyway, Reid said it made sense to apply for the funding currently available to assist heritage building owners.
Whanganui District Council heritage adviser Scott Flutey said the fund was for privately owned buildings in the provinces.
"We have heritage buildings listed in the council's district plan but there are not many nationally-listed heritage buildings with Heritage New Zealand," Flutey said.
However, Reid's 1900 Cosmopolitan Club building has national heritage status which meant the council was able to make an application to the Heritage EQUIP fund for that building and, as part of a multiple building application, add on some others that do not have national status.
Flutey worked with the group of owners to prepare an application on their behalf, with the deadline for applications two weeks into Covid-19 lockdown.
"It can be difficult for owners to get all the information together to apply for funding," he said.
"It was a lot of work to get the application together and we did it during lockdown. A lot of the owners are also business owners so this process was to help make it easier for them and make sure they got quality advice.
"The multiple building owners application was for seismic assessments and costing and designs for seismic work. It's the first step to fully strengthening the buildings. I look forward to seeing the work progress."
Flutey said the council had written to Whanganui heritage building owners about the funds available to them but it was possible some owners may have been missed or may want to apply to future funding rounds.
"I urge people to get in touch with me if they are interested in pursuing it more."