NZ’s heritage buildings receive extra funding for earthquake strengthening

Tax relief for heritage building owners undertaking upgrades is expected to be addressed in a report from the Tax Working Group due out this week.

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Local mayors said the Government money is a lifeline. Source: 1 NEWS

It follows the Government announcement last week of extra funding to help owners. 

The future of heritage buildings has been in question in parts of regional New Zealand due to legislation requiring buildings deemed vulnerable to earthquakes to be strengthened. 

“Earthquake strengthening laws have meant that many heritage building owners have had to make substantial investments to meet the new safety standards. But for many communities the costs of strengthening or restoration is just out of reach,” said Dave Cull, Local Government New Zealand president.

The Government has moved to offer bigger grants to those in these regional areas where there's a medium or high seismic risk.

They’ve also introduced grants for professional advice, contributing to the consenting process for seismic upgrades to earthquake-prone heritage buildings.

Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson told 1 NEWS the money is a step in the right direction, but not game changing for owners. 

Mr Cull says there’s more that Government can do. 

“For instance, if earthquake strengthening costs could be tax deductible,” he said. 

Heritage Minister Grant Robertson said, “We have the Tax Working Group which is about to release its report, and one of the issues we asked the group to look at was seismic strengthening and what support might be available for seismic strengthening."

That report is due tomorrow. 

Local Government New Zealand would also like to see a revision of the Building Amendment Act.

Currently buildings have to be bought up to code if there is work done that costs 25 per cent of an earthquake-prone building’s value.

Mr Watson said, “So you get the strange situation that if you put a new set of toilets in or tie facades that need tying back suddenly you have to bring the entire building up to code."

LGNZ says the clause should be changed to trigger earthquake strengthening once a threshold of ‘25 per cent of the capital value or $200,000, whichever is the greater’ is reached, to make this a more equitable.

“I would like to see more measures to assist heritage building owners, and if that means changing some of the legal requirements that would be a good thing” Mr Cull said.