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Monday, April 4, 2011

Lack of money could condemn historic buildings

Bills will doom earthquake damaged sites - experts

Lack of money could condemn historic buildings

Last updated 05:00 05/04/2011
A lack of money will condemn some quake-damaged historic buildings, heritage experts say.

The extent of the damage to Christchurch's heritage sites is not known, but efforts are under way to raise money for repairs.

In many cases insurance will not cover the full repair cost, leaving owners to cover the rest.

Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Building Trust Board chairwoman Anna Crighton said the funding gap had already seen several buildings demolished.

"There have been a few that could've been saved," she said.

The trust had established a fund to aid cash-strapped building owners, who could apply for up to 50 per cent of any shortfall.

A total of $4.5 million had been raised.

Crighton said the Christchurch City Council also provided incentives, but building owners would ultimately drive repairs.

"It will be down to which owners are prepared to fight, prepared to pay that other 50 per cent," she said.

"For heritage buildings to come down for lack of money, it's almost too hard to think about. It just seems a crime in a way."

Complicating matters was the availability of specialist tradesmen.

Historian William Cottrell has been asked by the Historic Places Trust to compile a database of those with specialist skills.

Cottrell said between 200 and 300 trades specialists had responded.

"I think I can probably double it," he said.

Those tradesmen in demand included stonemasons, traditional woodworkers, carvers, metalworkers and metalsmiths, leadlighters, slate and tile workers, marble workers and heritage engineers.

Cottrell doubted there was the capacity to do all the work.

"Some [buildings] are going to have to be written off because we can't rescue the whole lot," he said. "These are skills where you might have one or two people in any town who have them.

"I'm not talking about carpentry. These are people who can repair 19th-century stained-glass windows."

Lyttelton sculptor Mark Whyte said the demand for his services had been "huge" since February 22.

"We were busy but now it's gotten stupid," he said.

Yesterday, Whyte oversaw the removal of the Robert Falcon Scott and William Rolleston statues from the city centre and will be involved in work on the Lyttelton Timeball and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

There were enough stonemasons to handle the workload, but they needed some leeway. "For the important buildings, I think we should be given a bit of time."

He agreed money would be the deciding factor in whether buildings were repaired or demolished. "There's probably not the funds to repair everything we'd like," he said.

- The Press

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