Do the work or lose the charm
The future of Feilding’s renowned Edwardian visage lies in the hands of building owners, dozens of whom must choose between seismic strengthening or demolishing by 2028.
One building owner believes preserving the town’s character is an expensive but necessary investment.
Ken Smith bought 54-60 Fergusson St in 1993 as a family investment. The ground floor provided space for three businesses.
Last year he was notified his property was a priority earthquake-prone building, and he had 71⁄ years to decide 2 what to do with it.
He decided to go ahead with strengthening, and employed Auckland-based company Seismic Performance to assist him.
The company offered package deals that included engineering, consent and construction costs. It would cost him $330,000. Records showed the building was valued in 2019 at $340,000.
Smith believed the expense would be worth it in the long run. He said those who did not care about preserving Feilding’s character, had to consider that selling non-strengthened buildings meant they ‘‘had to be worth nothing’’.
Arthur Morgenstern, owner of Seismic Performance, said Smith’s situation was the case for many property owners in Feilding.
He said ‘‘onerous, scary, and difficult’’ financial and logistical stresses, plus the timing of the pandemic, could make building owners feel the best option was to walk away.
But he urged them to consider the importance of preserving Feilding’s ‘‘unique and vibrant heritage precinct’’. He recommended talking to earthquake specialists like himself, so they were informed of their options.
The company was now managing 14 seismic strengthening projects and Morgenstern established a division of his business in Feilding, which his daughters now ran.
He had also put in a bid to buy a Feilding property that was also in need of restoration.
Deputy mayor Michael Ford said the timeframe to strengthen buildings was challenging, but demolishing them would be a blow to the district’s economy andmorale.
Mayor Helen Worboys believed the government’s requirements were more likely to destroy small towns like Feilding, rather than an earthquake.
That was why the council had included a discounted consent cost strategy in its long term plan draft, which averaged at 57 cents per month, per average residential ratepayer.
Some building owners had already opted to sell their buildings, effectively pushing the decision to strengthen or demolish on to others.
In February, the Feilding Bridge Club announced it could not afford to strengthen its non-priority building, which would cost 90.9 per cent of the value of the property. It was now looking for new premises.
A Manawatu¯ District Council spokesperson said six consents for earthquake strengthening had been issued in the last 12 months, but no others were pending.
In 1996, many historical Feilding buildings were notified of their status and some began a 30-year plan to get them up to standard.
In 2012, the council proposed that buildings should be brought to standard within a decade, and owners requested that deadline be extended to 2032.
The Government’s Building Amendment Act set these new deadlines in mid-2017.