Land­lords slam strict earth­quake laws

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Your Local News - SAM KILMIS­TER

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.

DAVID UN­WIN/STUFF

Feild­ing busi­ness owner Kerry Gra­cie says un­less the Gov­ern­ment re­vis­its earth­quake prone leg­is­la­ture the prospect of find­ing a mid­dle ground re­mains shaky.

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