WELLINGTON, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Owners of heritage buildings in New Zealand are set to benefit from changes to Heritage EQUIP, the national earthquake upgrade incentive program, so as to have their valuable buildings better protected from disasters.
"Heritage buildings are integral to the character of regional New Zealand, but the cost of strengthening can be prohibitive for owners in these areas," Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Grant Robertson said on Monday.
These owners face lower building incomes and values that often do not justify the upgrade expense, and there can also be a shortage of locally available professional advice, Robertson said in a statement.
"Tailoring funding for heritage building owners in regional, medium and high seismic risk areas gives them more options to manage the unique earthquake strengthening challenges they face," he said, adding these owners are now eligible for new Professional Advice Grants, which are designed to assist people at the beginning of the earthquake upgrade process.
The grants provide up to 50 percent of the costs required for obtaining services such as detailed seismic assessments, conservation reports, architectural and structural engineering plans, according to Robertson who is also the finance minister.
"Many regional building owners are also able to apply for up to 67 percent of upgrade works costs," he added.
The government is keen to ensure more building owners access Heritage EQUIP funding to secure their valuable heritage buildings for the future, Robertson said.