John Morrison is starting to drop big policy ideas, with his latest garnering the support of key National ministers:
A bond system to help Wellington building owners strengthen their properties is being touted by mayoral candidate John Morrison.
The city councillor has unveiled a plan to make strengthening the city’s heritage buildings easier by allowing owners to borrow money using council assets as security.
Central government politicians have welcomed the idea, which would enable building owners to borrow for strengthening work and repay the bonds through a special rate that would be attached to the building, Mr Morrison said.
If the building was sold, the debt would remain with the building, not the owner.
Creating bonds would build up a fund for people to borrow from, while investors would be given confidence that it was backed by an organisation of the council’s size, he said.
“What it doesn’t do is add to the council’s debt line, because it’s a self-operating situation.”
Earthquake strengthening was one of the biggest issues facing Wellington, and it was vital that building owners struggling to fund major work had mechanisms available to them, he said.
“We have to do something now, we can’t just wait for 15 or 20 years – we can’t postpone the earthquake.”
Wellington had to be decisive and show leadership, he said. However, not all buildings could be saved.
“I will ask Wellingtonians to draw up a list of historic non-earthquake-compliant buildings so that people can rank them. We’ll make the list as long as possible, but the availability of money will determine which ones stay.”
Mr Morrison’s policy follows changes to government earthquake-strengthening requirements announced last week.
Under the changes, owners of earthquake-prone buildings get another 15 years to do the strengthening work, instead of the 10 years previously proposed. Category 1 heritage buildings could be given a further 10 years.
The Government also said it was open to the idea of financial incentives, but deferred that decision.
Mr Morrison said he had raised his idea with Earthquake Commission minister Gerry Brownlee and Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson, and both were open to exploring the proposal.
Mr Brownlee confirmed Mr Morrison had outlined the proposal to him. Deeper discussions would be required, but he was “encouraged” by the direction.
“I don’t have all the details of Mr Morrison’s plan, but what I am encouraged by is the fact that there’s a mayoral aspirant who’s actually looking at a very practical way of solving a difficult problem for many property owners and communities.
“If he’s successful in getting this across the line, then it’s a bit of a blueprint for the rest of New Zealand as well.”
Mr Finlayson also welcomed the proposal.
“I regard John Morrison as an outstanding candidate and share the same concern for protecting and strengthening Wellington’s heritage buildings. I look forward to working closely with him to explore all the options if he is elected mayor.”
Reading between the lines, Brownlee and Finlayson not only support the policy, but pretty much endorse Morrison for mayor, at the same time putting the boot into Celia Wade-Brown without mentioning her.