Thursday, 25 August 2016

One-way heritage bets

What a mess of a system.

Suppose you want to force owners of heritage buildings to protect them for you at their expense rather than your own. You can lodge legal challenges to consents issued to the owner allowing changes.

If you win, you've succeeded in forcing the owner to provide you a service for free.

If you lose, you might have costs awarded against you. And if you do...
One of Auckland's most active, successful heritage groups is planning liquidation after a $27,000 bill from losing a battle to save one of the city's oldest hotels.
Devonport Heritage Inc is holding a special meeting on September 14 to vote on the appointment of a liquidator and a notice has just gone out to all members from chairwoman Trish Deans.
Margot McRae, deputy chairwoman, today said that liquidation was planned as a result of a $27,000 bill for court costs after the group's unsuccessful Environment Court attempt to save the Masonic Tavern in 2010.
The story goes on to talk about the hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs faced by Councils defending issued resource consents against these kinds of collection-proof outfits. Left unmentioned are the even higher costs when a property owner's plans are put on the back burner for years while waiting for the legal challenges to wind their ways through - and the costs of unaffordable housing in Auckland when NIMBY organisations have an easy time doing this.

I had a chat yesterday with an interfaith group representing the owners of a pile of historic churches.

One of the costs of heritage building ownership that I hadn't considered: how it ramps up the cost of insurance. It's one of those things that's immediately obvious the second it's pointed out, but otherwise you might miss - and I'd missed it before. Insurers obviously demand more to insure a building that has to be reinstated to a historic standard than they do to replace a building with equivalent functionality.

A lot of small congregations would be more than happy to replace an older building with a new one with the same functionality anyway. But replacing a badly damaged old building with a new equivalent is tough when the old building is under heritage protection. And so these churches are facing substantial annual insurance bills reflecting the costs of rebuilding to an unwanted heritage standard.

There really should be a put option in there where the heritage people objecting to a change should have to purchase the building at its RV on request by the owner - or withdraw the heritage listing.

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