Whanganui leading the way on funding for heritage property owners

Whanganui District Council is demonstrating its leadership in heritage support in New Zealand with its commitment to the retention of its heritage assets.

Scott Flutey stands before the Whanganui District Council building.
Scott Flutey, Heritage Advisor. Photo: Whanganui District Councilexpand/collapse

Informed by the recently adopted Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho Whanganui District Heritage Strategy 2021, the district’s own Heritage Grant Fund is upscaling and expanding. Implemented in 2018, the Heritage Grant Fund is a contestable fund that refunds up to 80 percent of the cost of projects under $15,000, and up to 50 percent of the cost if the project is more than $15,000. Grants are available for external works that enhance the historic character of heritage sites listed in Whanganui District Council’s District Plan.

In 2021, the council increased the annual Heritage Grant Fund funding pool from $100,000 to $250,000. Acknowledging challenges for building owners in meeting current compliance requirements, the scope of the funding criteria was also widened to include professional advice on seismic and fire-proofing upgrades, as well as provide conservation and architectural advice.

The Council’s Heritage Advisor, Scott Flutey, says, “A large amount of CBD work in our city in the past few years has been supported by the Heritage Grant Fund. It has been a real game-changer.”

Previously limited to Whanganui’s town centre, sites outside of the CBD are now eligible for funding in situations where substantial community benefit can be demonstrated. This makes it easier for community organisations in Whanganui to access funding.

Whanganui District Councillor and Regional Heritage Trust member, Helen Craig, has also played a key role, together with strong endorsement from fellow councillors and the mayor, in increasing the public profile of council support for the survival of the district’s heritage assets. “We are pleased with the progress we are making and working together with property owners in our city to ensure our heritage assets survive,” says Helen.

The Council is in the process of contacting absentee owners of heritage buildings, particularly in the CBD, to take advantage of its Heritage Grant Fund.

- David Watt

The Ridgway Chambers surrounded by a high fence.
Ridgway Chambers, Whanganui’s oldest commercial building, before funding support. Photo: WDCexpand/collapse
The newly painted Ridgway chambers.
Ridgway Chambers after funding support. Photo: WDCexpand/collapse