Balancing (EQPB) Act: Heritage Preservation, Regulations and their Impact on the Future of Small Towns

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Filippova, Olga
Sullivan-Taylor, Bridgette

In the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, one of the biggest threats to our heritage buildings is the risk of earthquakes and the associated drive to strengthen or demolish buildings. Can Small Town NZ balance the requirements of the EQPB legislation and economic realities of their places? The government’s priority is on safety of building occupants and citizens in the streets. However, maintaining and strengthening privately-owned heritage buildings is often cost prohibitive. Hence, heritage regulation has frequently been perceived as interfering with private property rights, especially when heritage buildings occupy a special place in the community becoming an important place for people (i.e. public benefits are larger than private).

We investigate several case studies where building owners have been given green light to demolish heritage listed buildings to make way for modern developments. In two of the case studies developers provided evidence of unaffordable strengthening costs. A new trend that has emerged is a voluntary offer of contributing to an incentive fund to assist with heritage preservation of other buildings. This is a unique example where private owners offer incentives (via council controlled organisations) instead of it being purely the domain of the central or local governments.

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