Heritage campaigners fail in bid to curb demolitions

By Bernard Orsmon

A proposed rewrite of Auckland's tarnished heritage rules leaves power in the hands of unelected officials and shuts out the public, says a group of heritage and community organisations.

The Character Coalition is "hugely disappointed" with the draft rules after lobbying the Auckland Council to follow Brisbane and give communities a big say in recognising and preserving heritage.

The council has rejected the Brisbane model, under which every application to demolish or remove a house would be publicly notified and owners must prove the case for demolition.

The rules in the draft unitary plan - the new rulebook for the city - would see council or consultant planners using case law to decide if applications for demolition in existing character heritage areas should be publicly notified or not.

The council has proposed widening the heritage net to pre-1944 houses outside the existing heritage character areas and requiring owners to obtain a resource consent for demolition. However, the council said all applications would be non-notified because many landowners bought in these area knowing they were not heritage character areas.

Character Coalition spokeswoman Sally Hughes said the draft rules left the decision-making powers in the hands of unelected officials with little or no public input.Relying on case law to determine public notification and stopping the public having a say for thousands of houses outside the character areas was a "cop-out" as cases like Coolangatta and Paget St had shown, she said.

"At some point, as Brisbane did, you have to say 'well I'm sorry, this is it'. If we are serious about protecting our character and heritage we need to put this stake in the ground."

Ms Hughes said the biggest disappointment was the council's rejection of local plans to recognise and set heritage characteristics and issues, which would come into effect before intensification began.

"It's about people having a say about their local environment and feeling happy about where they live. That will only occur if people are allowed input."

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, who is overseeing the unitary plan process, said the council was proposing a blanket demolition control of pre-1994 buildings across the whole city.

The council, she said, was making it easier to notify applications for demolition, but notifying all applications was not going to happen.

Ms Hulse said the council had not been able to go as far as the coalition would have liked but if there was enough feedback to the "draft, we may be able to go further".

Heritage clash: Proposal and response

Character Coalition: All demolitions of pre-1940s buildings must be publicly notified.

Auckland Council: Rejected.

Character Coalition: Owners have to prove a house is beyond repair to get approval for demolition.

Auckland Council: Rejected.

Character Coalition: New buildings in heritage areas must meet a design code requiring sympathetic design, scale and materials.

Auckland Council: No change to existing rules that see officers interpret design criteria.

Character Coalition: Local plans to recognise and set local heritage characteristics and issues.

Auckland Council: Rejected.

Character Coalition: Local plans completed before intensification begins.

Auckland Council: Rejected.

- The Aucklander

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