Heritage building issues under the spotlight - 29/09/2005The heritage buildings in the Bridge Block and adjacent areas are an important resource for Wanganui and are specifically protected by the Old Town Conservation Overlay Zone.
Wanganui District Council's building services team leader Jeff Jamieson says the new Building Act 2004, the majority of which was implemented on 31 March 2005, introduced a range of requirements for existing buildings (heritage or non-heritage) which have a 'change of use' or are 'altered'.
The new Act allows some incremental improvements to take place for 'alteration issues and these must comply 'as near as is reasonably practicable' with the Building Code. However, if the change of use includes adding household units where these did not previously exist, then the building must comply with the Building Code in all respects.
"The key issue is to ensure that your professional designer provides appropriate documentation to the Council to take advantage of all of the options available," Mr Jamieson said.
"Public safety and public amenity are just two of the key drivers in the new Act. Specific clauses have been written to address accessibility issues and Council has no discretion under the Act to diminish these requirements. Business owners are not allowed to discriminate on who they employ, and accessible access ramps and toilets etc are included to enable all people to participate in the workforce.
"Often buildings sit empty for all manner of reasons and it is the upgrading that triggers certain requirements."
The new Act also requires the Council produce a policy for Earthquake Prone Buildings (EPB) before 31 May 2006.
The policy must specify how it will apply to heritage buildings. The policy will have to go through a special consultative procedure under the Local Government Act, which involves endorsement by Council, public submissions, hearings, then formal adoption.
A small Council team is currently preparing preliminary information to initially brief Councillors about the proposal. This proposal will then be put out for public consultation and the community will decide on the future direction of the policy on EPB buildings and heritage buildings.