Wednesday 4 July 2012

Increasing the burden

This is why we can't have nice things.

Imagine that there's something you like. You have the power of government at your disposal to help you get more of the nice thing you like. Should you:
  1. Pay people a subsidy for providing the nice thing;
  2. Make it more expensive for people to own the nice thing.
When it comes to heritage buildings, which are very nice things indeed, we're increasingly doing the second. The National Business Review reports that the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill will make it more difficult for owners of pre-1900 buildings to make any kind of alteration. In addition to requiring a building consent and, for buildings listed in district plans, a resource consent, you'll now also need an archaeological permit. 

NBR points to the Law Society's submission on the bill. They write:
The practical implications of this definitional change, however, are wide-ranging for New Zealand’s older settlements.  In some of these (for example, Nelson and Dunedin) there is still a substantial housing and commercial building stock comprising pre-1900 structures. A literal application of the definition of “archaeological site”, together with its companion definition of “harm”, means that there will be many thousands of private dwellings around New Zealand that will require an archaeological authority to be obtained for the most minor maintenance work, such as the replacement of spouting or the hanging of new wallpaper.  It is not clear whether this level of intervention with private ownership rights is intended by the Bill.  If that is not intended, then revisiting the definition of “harm” or “archaeological site” is warranted.  The Law Society does not believe that this difficulty can be addressed by Heritage New Zealand simply applying the legislation in a pragmatic way, since the failure to obtain an archaeological authority is a criminal offence of strict liability.
Who would want to own a heritage home if they had to seek archaeological approval if they wanted to change the wallpaper? If the value of heritage buildings is bid down because of the regulatory encumbrances, investments in maintenance and strengthening are attenuated too.


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