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18th of January 2018

Politics



Rangitīkei District Council says no to adopting government's priority areas

Hannah's Marton Hotel, now the Club Hotel, on High St was established in 1862 and rebuilt in 1924 GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Hannah's Marton Hotel, now the Club Hotel, on High St was established in 1862 and rebuilt in 1924

Officials will not impose tougher timeframes on owners of earthquake-prone buildings in Rangitīkei, but warn the problem won't go away.  

The Rangitīkei District Council received an overwhelming 'no' from building owners during consultation in October after originally proposing priority areas in Bulls, Marton, Hunterville and Taihape.

This means the council will now have five years to identify earthquake-prone buildings and owners will have 15 years to strengthen or demolish.

Marton's old post office on Broadway is up for sale. GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Marton's old post office on Broadway is up for sale.

The news is a welcome relief for the owners of more than 35 Marton buildings that were built before 1935. 

READ MORE:* Historic 142-year-old Feilding hotel could face demolition in earthquake-prone buildings saga* Earthquake-prone building law changes will kill small town retail streets, building owners say* Investment in quake-prone buildings too much for rural towns* Rangitīkei District Council says no to adopting government's priority areas* Earthquake-prone building challenge just another chapter for Taihape's historic theatre

Owners believe no matter what way legislation is enforced, there is going to be significant expense and little of what they might consider an upside. 

This building on the corner of Marton's High St and Broadway was built in 1924. GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

This building on the corner of Marton's High St and Broadway was built in 1924.

Those around the council table agreed, with Andy Watson saying the government shouldn't classify towns like Marton and Feilding the same as metropolitan areas. 

"This was a 'one size fits all' policy from the Government and one size does not fit all in small towns.

"It's important we don't think this will go away. These buildings will still have to be earthquake-proofed."

The corner of High St and Broadway in Marton homes more than 35 buildings built before 1935. GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

The corner of High St and Broadway in Marton homes more than 35 buildings built before 1935.

Councillor Dean McManaway and deputy mayor Nigel Belsham said the council would kill small towns if it implemented priority areas to speed the process. 

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"If we move anything other than this motion I believe we are shortening the noose around the necks of building owners in our district," Belsham said. 

"We need to do everything in our political power to go to the Government to change the policy." 

The Rangitīkei District Council building in Marton is earthquake-prone. GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

The Rangitīkei District Council building in Marton is earthquake-prone.

Club Hotel owner Gavin Case said Marton's low population, and vehicle and pedestrian counts limited the risk.    

The risk from these buildings was the same as when they were built in the early 1900s, Case said. 

Having more time to remedy earthquake-prone buildings gave landlords more time to gather funds, he said. 

Andy Watson warns that while the Rangitīkei District Council opted not to adopt priority areas the issue of upgrading ... DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Andy Watson warns that while the Rangitīkei District Council opted not to adopt priority areas the issue of upgrading earthquake-prone buildings won't go away.

Engineer Rob Snijders​ said identifying vast areas of the district as priority areas would "mark the end" for Rangitīkei. 

Buildings in Marton had been left to decay, primarily due to economic decline in the district, he said. 

"Most of our CBDs have gone to sleep by 5pm. Without substantial improvements in the district's economy, buildings will be left empty and allowed to rot." 

Marton resident Wendy Wagner said with poor returns and the exorbitant cost to strengthen, owners believed the easiest option would be to demolish the building or walk away. 

"Where will that leave Marton township?"   

Buildings such as medical centres, police stations and schools will still be considered priority buildings and have reduced timeframes.  

 - Stuff

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