The owners of the earthquake-damaged Hurunui Hotel are at their wits end and say the historic building needs a fairy godmother.
The hotel, which has a category one heritage rating, was red stickered shortly after last November’s Kaikoura earthquake.
Owner Rodger Strong said abandoning the building was an option if repair costs were too high .
“We believe it’s probably going to be the outcome unless a fairy godmother comes along and says ‘we have money for it’”.
* Red-stickered Hurunui Hotel owners defend decision not to do critical earthquake work
Strong said they had applied for a $16,000 grant from Heritage New Zealand (HNZ) to help pay for an engineer’s report on the extent and cost of repairs needed to reopen one of the country’s oldest pubs.
However, he said they did not qualify because the money is only for buildings damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes.
They are eligible to apply for up to $100,000 in HNZ funding for repairs and strengthening work but have to match the grant dollar for dollar.
Strong said they would struggle to get a bank loan using the building as surety, and because of difficulties getting insurance.
HNZ heritage advisor architecture Dave Margetts said the hotel owners could apply for money from the $12m fund for earthquake prone buildings administered by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.
But Strong did not believe they were eligible because the building was already damaged.
“It’s extremely frustrating, we’re past sitting down and filling out forms”.
He said he had looked at taking down the gable ends and chimneys to make the building safe, and replacing the stonework with timber.
That way his tenant, who is operating a bar and restaurant in a neighbouring building, could shift back to the hotel.
Margetts said HNZ supported retaining as much as possible of the hotel’s original heritage material, and would welcome the opportunity to advise the owners, but it had yet to see a proposal for repairs.
“Heritage New Zealand has always maintained that public safety comes first.
“A temporary fix may not address the earthquake prone aspects of the building and therefore may not guarantee occupancy under the Building Act”.
A 2013 engineer’s report had recommended building a timber or shipping container tunnel to the hotel’s front door to keep patrons safe because of the risk of the front wall falling in a major earthquake.
After the 7.8 Kaikoura shake the gable ends were classed as “dangerous” (rather than just earthquake prone) and were fenced off, but the front of the hotel on State Highway 7 remains unfenced.
Strong is keen to erect a 1.2 metre white picket fence – with an electric wire a metre inside it to deter anyone from climbing over – so passersby have an unimpeded view of the hotel facade for photographs.
But he said the council wanted a 1.8 metre fence.
Hurunui District Council building team leader Kerry Walsh said he had told the tenant and the owner that ideally tables should not be put too close to the earthquake prone sections of the building.
“It could possibly crumble to pieces in an earthquake, so I’ve advised them it’s not best practice to be that close to it.
“But it’s not something the council can enforce … we’re not even allowed to put notices on buildings saying ‘keep back’, or anything like that”.
Walsh said they had talked with the hotel owner who was looking into options to get the “dangerous” notice removed, so the building was safe to use.
But even then, he said the hotel would still be earthquake prone until strengthening work was carried out.