Remember this building? It was a building Masterton could admire. It radiated its curves and colour to passersby and hid the monstrosity of a building behind it from the eyes of guests to the town, who might otherwise think they missed the turn off at Woodville and are somewhere along the way of State Highway 1’s unremarkable tin-shed-towns.

We will soon need to move to counting on our toes all the charismatic and enchanting old buildings of the town that have been whittled away at over just the last decade. And to keep things boring on this blog- yep, I do think it’s all the politician’s fault.

These buildings are going for one main reason: Landlords are making rational economic decisions to avoid ball-busting earthquake strengthening work.

A couple of points i’d like to drive home today.

To earthquake strengthen all the buildings that are below standard in NZ is estimated to cost over $12 billion over just the next 5 years. In the last 200 years roughly 400 people have died in earthquakes. That’s a  2 person per year average.

500 people per year kill themselves. And guess how much is allocated by the government for suicide prevention? $25 million over 5 years.

I get it- the government has had to respond to people’s fears after Christchurch, but lets look into those numbers:

  1. Building owners- collectively-  Could spend $2.4b per year to mitigate the risk of death to the two people predicted to die next year in earthquakes, for the next 5 years. That’s $1.2b per person, per year.
  2. The government will spend $12,000 per person per year trying to mitigate the risk of the 500 people who will die from suicide next year.

Does anyone else have “ERROR” flashing up under their eyelids, or is it just me? Does the government really value a life lost by suicide so poorly, or a person lost in an earthquake so wildly? It’s absurd.

In any case, building owners are reacting quite predictably to  this ridiculous imposition  by the government , and are saying “stuff that”, “I’ll rip it down and build a functional and cheap replacement”. Hence the ugly farm sheds you see throughout the land these days. Furthermore, from what I understand, earthquake strengthening work is not tax deductible.

But I digress…this is sadly the reality now, and no amount of talking will change that. But there is hope…

May I direct your thoughts to Greytown. Few could argue they didn’t absolutely nail their urban design standard. Many of their buildings are not original, yet the town looks great. It is a model of  what the rest of urban Wairarapa should aspire to-  bygone aesthetic charm. How else are we to attract nice young families?

We are never ever going to get the big industry back here. Farming will soldier on. But the growth prospects of the towns really hinge on how we are perceived by the outsiders considering a move here. To do that, we must be attractive enough to someone who enjoys the refinements of a Wellington or Auckland. They don’t want their friends to come and visit and be subjected to mocking jokes about how godawful ugly the town is. They want to brag that they pay $250 a week for a big house, they don’t commute, and the town is a classy looking strip to wander down. You need all three. You need wood, not tin.

In Masterton, David Borman’s developments have been done with taste but it seems he is a lone ranger with other developers in town choosing the cheap and nasty route, done for the reasons already discussed.

Well, as much as I sympathise with the building owners- something must be done I tell you! I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but the council needs to get the pads and pens out and develop some rules.

There must be design standards that new developments have to stick to. Just like Greytown has. No one in Masterton council seems to be pushing for this though.The reason for this is because MDC councillors are a  bunch of tasteless wallies who are not thinking about the long game. Am I wrong?

I hope Pim Borren does a good job with the $4 million CBD redevelopment. He might write terrible columns in the paper but apparently he’s a very results orientated guy… unlike a few  useless Councillors I could name. The Texans have a term for them actually: Big hat, no cattle.

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“Verse 2-5: beware the hypocrite in robes.” The 5 term Masterton councillor Jonathan Hooker who has achieved nothing of note except botch a balloon festival and make friends (and a track) with an athletics coach who narrowly avoided prison stripes.

 

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I will miss this building, that I used to run and warm my hands over after sunset as a child.

Cheers

-Theus

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***UPDATE 7/4/16***

Just discovered through HANSARD that Ron Mark was talking about this very issue the other day in parliament:

…”We are very keen to preserve the fabric, culture, and the aesthetic appeal of many of our rural towns by making sure heritage buildings are looked after. We have made these concessions here, but not all of the buildings we are talking about that have high character value are considered heritage buildings. So what are we going to see? For many of these landlords it might well just be easier to run a bulldozer straight through the damn building—and there goes a cinema in Masterton that actually has typical rural appeal and high aesthetic value to that community. But if it turns out that the costs and the lack of any tax concessions make it easier for this owner to simply say “Well, I’ll tell you, we’ll knock it down and we’ll build a single storey building—you know, get a Skyline garage in and run our business out of that.”, that will add nothing to the cultural and aesthetic appeal of Masterton’s Queen Street. Or, for example, I can think of cinemas—what was the other one I thought of? We have got old pubs. All over New Zealand, in rural provincial New Zealand, you have some old pubs. They are not considered heritage buildings.”

He is dead right… for once.. The old buildings are disappearing. But thankfully the ol’ Regent in Masterton isn’t going anywhere..It has had engineering strengthening work done on it several times over the last 20 years and some further work is planned in the near future for the unused stage area so it can be developed. It’s sister building in Palmerston North has also survived with relatively minimal work being done… when they were built in the middle of the great depression they were “over-engineered” with plenty of heavy  riveted steel in the concrete, in order to keep everyone busy. This serendipitous fact alone probably saved them from the 42′ earthquake and from the current culling going on with other old buildings.

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