Independent Commissioner, Rob Van Voorthuysen, has declined consent to demolish the 110-year-old Thain’s Building on the corner of Taupo Quay and Victoria Avenue in Whanganui. The applicant owner sought consent saying the building was earthquake prone and not economically viable to strengthen. The cost to strengthen was put at $1.8 million.
The Commissioner in his decision report said the Thain’s Building was highly visible to tourists visiting Durie Hill or crossing the Whanganui City Bridge and its demolition would affect “the fabric and symmetry of other Victorian masonry buildings in the neighbourhood”. There were 33 submissions to the hearing, 32 opposed to demolition, including a submission from Heritage New Zealand.
The building is listed as a Class B heritage building in the Whanganui District Plan, meaning it has high heritage values at a regional or local level. Whanganui Mayor, Hamish McDouall, welcomed the decision, saying it reinforced the importance of retaining Whanganui’s heritage buildings.
“We are very pleased the decision has validated our heritage-led approach to our city centre regeneration. Demolishing the Thain’s Building would have caused irreversible damage to our status as a town known for its unique heritage,” he said.
The Mayor said submitters at the hearing had demonstrated that there were ways to preserve and re-use heritage buildings and there were still options to explore for retention before demolition should be considered. He added that the council was committed to working with building owners to find innovative ways to strengthen, adapt, and reuse heritage buildings.
The owners can appeal the decision to the Environment Court but have commented the cost was prohibitive and that they would be unlikely to do so.
Heritage NZ’s latest email newsletter has reported that a demolition consent application for Thain’s Building in Whanganui has been declined.