HIGH STREET business owners Nicky and Joe Arts have watched their livelihood slowly die in front of them.Does CERA really want everyone in Wellington to get the idea that it's better to make zero investments in their heritage buildings? Because that is what they're doing.
Almost three years on from the first earthquake, their heritage shopfront and factory remain suspended in time, as if the February 2011 earthquake were only yesterday.A year ago, they were told their business was scheduled to become part of the Southern Frame in the central city blueprint. Since that first notification, they have not been told anything further.They own one of many titles dividing up the 1905 heritage Duncan’s Building into shopfronts. Arts the Printers and Card Makers has been a family business since the 1960s.After three years’ fighting to save the building, the street and their business, they say they feel like broken records.‘‘It’s basically a nightmare for us,’’ Joe said. ‘‘ But it wasn’t the earthquakes that were nightmares, it was what came after.’’Their frustration with the Government-run clean-up and rebuild is at tipping point.Having been locked out of their business for two years by Cera, they have lost a lot of their customers.While much of High St is now open and accessible, the block between Tuam and St Asaph St remains closed off. Parts of their neighbour’s shopfronts remain on the street.‘‘We’ve become very angry these last few years,’’ Nicky said. ‘‘ What’s frustrating is the complete lack of progress.’’Attempts to get any information out of Cera have simply fallen on deaf ears.The owners of the adjoining shopfronts in the same building have contributed nothing to try to prop the building up.One of them is uninsured, and the other has little hope of recovering insurance payouts.The Arts repaired the two adjoining walls to save their shop.‘‘We went into massive debt to stabilise those brick walls, without either of them paying a sodding cent,’’ Nicky said.Between the September and February earthquakes, the Arts had more than $150,000 of reinforcing steel installed, meaning they now meet 73 per cent of the building code.However, because they adjoin unstable shopfronts, they have very little hope of opening theirs.‘‘In hindsight, we’d have been better off not to do it. We could have just walked away, but it did save lives,’’ Joe said.Nicky is simply anxious to get some answers. She does not believe a Government offer would allow them to walk away without significant financial burden.‘‘Cera and CCDU just do not know what they’re doing,’’ she said. ‘‘We just want to know, are they going to purchase us for the frame or not? If yes, get on with it . . . If not, hurry up and open the street. For God’s sake, they need to make a decision.’’
If you own a yellow-stickered Wellington building that's next door to another yellow-stickered building, you can invest in making the property safe and save lives. But if the neighbour doesn't, then you won't be allowed back in the building for three years after a quake and you will probably be bankrupted because of your investment in making the building safe. Is this REALLY the lesson that CERA wants Wellington to take? Really?
It's been darn near three years. "Oh it's complicated and these things take time" starts wearing awfully thin.