Landlords slam strict earthquake laws
A law to upgrade earthquakeprone buildings will end with streets of red-stickered sections and demolition sites, owners say.
The Building (Earthquakeprone Buildings) Amendment Act came into force on July 1 and calls for every building in the country to be more than 34 per cent of the building code, but it is expected the level of investment required would cripple many.
Rangitı¯kei MP Ian McKelvie said officials needed to work with owners in small towns.
If they took a hard stance on provincial property owners it would result in ‘‘extreme hardship’’ and lead to building closures, leaving towns like Feilding, Marton and Taihape with no commercial centre left.
But Central Economic Development Agency chief executive Linda Stewart said the process didn’t have to be daunting or negative. Owners could enter shared spaces, which were becoming more common, she said.
The agency could support Manawatu¯ businesses by connecting them with experts or consultants for investment and financial advice.
Marton landlord Bruce Ward said the Government, in a kneejerk reaction to the Christchurch earthquake, passed an ‘‘illconceived and unjust’’ law prompting owners to take action.
He believed the policy only tried to insulate the public from a grim truth - that in a major earthquake concrete and brick would crumble and people would die, regardless of a building’s rating.
His building on Broadway was built in 1942 and only reaches 15 per cent. It will cost $200,000 to upgrade. Its existing QV valuation is $147,000.
He said there hadn’t been a major earthquake west of the Tararua and Ruahine ranges in the 169 years since records began.
‘‘Yet we are told by scaremongering scientists we are in a high-risk area. What?
‘‘Under this iniquitous legislation I will be expected to pay money I don’t have to strengthen or demolish my building. If I don’t I will be prosecuted in court like a criminal.’’
Richard Hogg bought the Moral building and old ANZ Bank building with little intent of selling, but rather a keen interest to preserve some of Marton’s charming and historic aspects.
The surrounding rural landscape speckled with rivers, and small towns homed in colonial buildings, helped connect visitors with the region’s history and made it the perfect escape for those who appreciated the unique collision of town meets country, he said.
‘‘Marton needs to retain its town centre as near as possible. It still has a relatively untouched image that creates a lot of charm, minutes from State Highway 1.’’
Feilding business owner Kerry Gracie believed if requirements for earthquake-prone buildings weren’t relaxed, the prospect of building owners finding a workable, realistic middle ground remained shaky.
Marton building owner Steven Quinn said commercial property owners in Manawatu¯ and Rangitı¯ki were not all wealthy people. Most were ordinary ‘‘ma and pa’’ outfits who had worked hard and picked up a cheap investment property along the way.
Institutional investors didn’t place their funds in towns such as Taihape or Marton, he said.
Making these ‘‘small-time, private’’ investors spend big money on low value, low return properties would result in owners selling quickly, sometimes at land value, or closing the doors and leaving the building empty.
Feilding business owner Kerry Gracie says unless the Government revisits earthquake prone legislature the prospect of finding a middle ground remains shaky.