Feilding - Rangitikei Herald

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

A new fund worth $12 million designed to support the retention of New Zealand's heritage buildings was announced in Feilding on Friday.

Arts, culture and heritage minister Maggie Barry launched the Heritage Earthquake Upgrade Incentive Programme (Heritage EQUIP) in the Manchester Square.

The fund would see $12 million go towards the cost of strengthening privately-owned heritage buildings nationwide over the next four years.

"Heritage buildings are an important part of the character of towns like Feilding, but the cost of strengthening can be prohibitive and unsustainable for their owners, particularly in provincial areas like Manawatu," Barry said.

"We don't want to see valued buildings empty and deteriorating, or even demolished, because it isn't economical to strengthen them. This new fund will support owners to preserve our building heritage for future generations.

"I look forward to seeing how building owners respond to the opportunity it presents."

While visiting Feilding, Labor leader Andrew Little said the Government was "scraping the bottom of the barrel" and $12m over four years was "pathetic".

"The Government seems to be doing this ration of announcements with big objectives, but not really putting anything behind it.

"$12m for heritage buildings, knowing the level of strengthening many are going to require, it's just scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of a meaningful response to the problem," Little said.

"If we're going to get real about the problem we've first got to understand the size of the problem and it's not $12m over four years."

Feilding Hotel owner Dave Wiseman said he was happy with the outcome and would consider submitting an application for strengthening his 141-year-old category 2 building.

"Today's announcement is a big step, probably the biggest step we've had in a long time.

"The goal posts have been getting shifted all the time in terms of finding funding and building owners didn't know where to go or what to do," Wiseman said.

"I'll let it settle down and once we've got some guidelines from the Government we'll certainly look to get involved with the process."

"Today's announcement is a big step, probably the biggest step we've had in a long time."