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Understanding different perspectives on the preservation of community and heritage buildings in the Wellington Region, New Zealand


The Canterbury (New Zealand) earthquake sequence of 2010–2012 caused unexpectedly extreme levels of damage and disruption, being an unparalleled event in New Zealand in terms of the damage extent. Christchurch’s heritage buildings were seriously damaged during these events, with churches especially affected in 22 February 2011 M w 6.2 earthquake. During this earthquake, a total of 84% of the heritage unreinforced stone and 81% of the clay brick masonry churches in the Canterbury region were either considered unsafe (receiving red placards) or with restricted access (yellow placards). Following the earthquakes, authorities across New Zealand are reassessing the capacity of older buildings to resist earthquakes. Current legislation requires that a building judged as earthquake prone either be strengthened by retrofitting or be demolished within a legislated number of years. Many building owners are facing the problems of owning earthquake-prone buildings and lacking the funding to upgrade. This affects both community and heritage buildings, resulting in the likely abandonment or demolition of some buildings. To address the problem of the balance between life safety and preservation in the Wellington Region, this project gathered and compared the perspectives of the general public, church communities, heritage specialists, professional engineers, and local authorities to assist in balancing the interests of these stakeholders. As a result of the findings, several recommendations have been provided that include standardizing structural assessment processes and training, feasibility of additional public funding to upgrade buildings, new signage to increase public awareness of earthquake-prone buildings, and regular communication among stakeholders to understand and resolve differences.

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The authors would like to thank the following individuals, religious organizations, engineers, building owners, departments, and institutions for taking part in this project and providing very useful information and resources that enormously helped to complete this project: David Johnston (GNS Science) for his support on this project, for taking part in some of the focus group meetings, and for the very useful references provided; Sheng-Lin Lin (GNS Science) for providing the RiACT tool to collect data; the religious groups and individuals of All Saints Church (especially Basin Wakelin and Heather Miller), Rob Moonlight from the Anglican Diocese of Wellington, the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington (especially Dave Mullin), Miramar Uniting Church (specially June Stewart), Saint Joseph’s Parish, Saint Paul’s Cathedral (especially Tony Fryer), and Saint Christopher’s Church (especially Carolyn Marshall) for sharing their personal experiences, challenges, and opinions; members of Wellington’s engineering community from Aurecon (especially Tony Holden), BECA (Richard Sharpe and Rob Jury), and OPUS (Vince Dravitzki) for sharing their personal opinions and experiences; Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (especially Allison Dangerfield and Barbara Rouse) for providing background research on building preservation and its involved processes; the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO, especially to Dan Neely) for providing initial guidance and continued interest in the project; the Wellington City Council (especially Neville Brown and Claire Gregory) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE, especially Darrel Cheong) for providing background information; the Ministry for Culture and Heritage Manatu Taonga (especially Helen McCracken) for their enthusiasm and support on this project; Win Clark (Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga) for his invaluable help and support to this project and for arranging one of our focus group meetings; Rebecca Ziino (from WPI library) for assisting in the collection of background research; the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) for providing the opportunity for the WPI authors of this paper to study abroad and work with members of the Wellington community; Professor VJ Manzo and Professor Emeritus Paul Davis (WPI), supervisors of the WPI authors, for assisting and providing needed guidance through the project’s completion; Professor Stephen McCauley (WPI) for the guidance through the initial proposal process; Dr Graeme McVerry (GNS Science) for insightful discussions on the NZS1170 Standards and the NBS parameter; Dr David Johnston and Dr Julia Becker (GNS Science) for reviewing this paper and for their useful comments; Temitope Egbelakin (School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, Massey University) for providing previous work on the topic, including a paper recently submitted; and finally, all other individuals and groups within the Wellington Region that contributed in some aspect to the completion of this project. This study was funded by the project RiskScape, funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology (reference C05X0409).

Note: the contents of this paper are exclusively the authors’ interpretation of the results of the surveys, interviews, and focus group meetings with public and private organizations. The discussion and conclusion of this project should be attributed exclusively to the authors of this paper, and not under any circumstance to any of the individuals or organizations that collaborated in this project.

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Correspondence to Tatiana Goded.



This appendix includes three tables with the public surveys breakdown (Table 6) and the analysis of the questions used for the engineering (Table 7) and religious (Table 8) focus groups carried out in this project.

Table 6 Public survey breakdown (linked to objectives 1 and 2 in Sect. 3)
Table 7 Detailed engineering focus group question analysis (linked to objective 3 in Sect. 3)
Table 8 Detailed religious focus group question analysis (linked to objective 4 in Sect. 3)

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Goded, T., Beaupre, A., DeMarco, M. et al. Understanding different perspectives on the preservation of community and heritage buildings in the Wellington Region, New Zealand. Nat Hazards 87, 185–212 (2017).

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  • Churches
  • Community buildings
  • Earthquake-prone buildings
  • Heritage buildings
  • New Zealand
  • Preservation