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Heritage cost in capital’s dodgy chimneys

Oct 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

Mt Cook Chimneys
A MT COOK couple who want to remove their dangerous brick chimney are being frustrated by the costly heritage rules they helped put in place.
Since the Canterbury quake Carol Comber and Peter Cooke (pictured below)  have been worried about the chimney over their daughter’s bedroom, but council restrictions mean they need a resource consent to remove it.
The couple point to two quakes which hit Wellington and the Wairarapa in 1942, to illustrate what could happen.Chimney main final
“In 1942, 13,000 chimneys came down. They’re really the first thing to suffer in an earthquake,” says Peter.
“It’s made us look at our chimneys, and made us think about the huge restrictions placed on us concerning getting brick chimneys removed.”
The restrictions are on pre-1930 houses in Wellington’s ‘character’ heritage zones, and require about $1500 in resource consent costs for owners who want to seriously alter their historical homes.
These rules have been in place for Thorndon and Te Aro for years, and were recently extended to include the Wellington suburbs of Mount Cook, Berhampore and Newtown after lobbying from the historical society which Peter belongs to.
He says the council assesses the houses for their heritage aspect. “The way they assess the heritage aspect is they look at the building from the road and look for the primary aspects of the building.”
The only original aspect of Carol and Peter’s 1896 house which is visible from the road is the chimney, which goes through their daughter’s bedroom and the attic to the roof.
The City Council has given no comment on the matter, though councillors from the Lambton ward agreed to look into the matter at the last Mount Cook Mobilised residents meeting.
Greater Wellington Regional Council’s website lists securing chimneys twice on its earthquake preparedness checklist.
Chimney and Skylight
Mt Cook resident Frank Rueter, whose house also has a chimney, says he enjoys having places with a bit of history to them and his girlfriend loves the old flair and character of her house, but safety needs to come first.
“We want to preserve the history and character of these old houses, but ultimately you aren’t going to benefit from that much if you get hit by a brick chimney.”
He suggests that other measures might be taken to make existing chimneys safer without taking them down.
“We’ve been talking about getting chicken wire wrapped around the chimney so that single bricks don’t crash through the skylight (pictured left).”
The heritage rules also raises the issue of safety for the large student population, with the resource consent cost being a disincentive to landlords.
Matthew Davis-Goff rents a Mt Cook house with a chimney and does not think his landlord wouldn’t consider removing their chimney.
“I’ll try to look after my own life, but otherwise I don’t care if the ceiling falls in because they have to pay for it, not me.”

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