No applications for Heritage Equip grants

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by Chris Tobin

Owners of heritage buildings in the Timaru district have not yet come forward for government funding to earthquake-strengthen their buildings.

No formal applications have yet been made.

Last month, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Grant Robertson announced owners of heritage buildings in regional areas would be eligible for new professional advice grants to help get their buildings upgraded.

The Heritage Equip grants would provide up to 50% of costs up to a maximum of $50,000 to do investigative reports, detailed seismic assessments, structural engineering plans or other work.

The funding is in addition to Heritage Equip upgrade works grants of up to 67% of seismic upgrade works for buildings in the regions, above the 50% for main centres.

As an extra incentive, owners of neighbouring buildings can link together to apply for up to 67% of professional costs.

“We’ve not awarded any funding to South Canterbury projects. The nearest is one grant for an Oamaru project,” Heritage Equip fund manager Mark Frew, of Wellington, said.

“We’ve had seven formal expressions of interest from Timaru building owners wanting to do upgrade works projects.

“I’ve talked to two of them about getting an application in for the new professional advice grants.

“I’ve also been talking to Timaru District Council and the [Timaru] Civic Trust about broader building owner support.”

The funding is available only to those regions which have a medium or high seismic risk.

Under the 2004 Building Act, Timaru and most of Timaru district are considered medium risk while parts of Timaru district south and Waimate town are low risk. Mackenzie district is medium risk.

Only privately owned buildings are eligible for funding, not charitably owned buildings, churches, council assets, farm buildings, some monuments and most residential buildings.

This rules out Timaru’s Sacred Heart Basilica which is being earthquake-strengthened at present.

Mr Frew said the process was “a very long game” with one of the aims being to help maintain the heritage value of older town centres which faced challenges.

“It’s the same thing up and down the country with a whole catalogue of things like bulk retail outside the centre centres and internet retail contributing.”

buildings on the Heritage NZ list in Timaru, Temuka, Geraldine and Pleasant Point and 130 on the heritage schedule in the district plan.

The council’s environmental services committee was advised this week the next stage of its earthquake prone buildings project would be to identify priority quake-prone buildings.

It was recommended that information should be published and workshops held before building owners were contacted.

Applications for the latest round of Heritage Equip funding close on March 22.