Property editor of the NZ Herald

24-year-old heritage protection group to liquidate after $27,000 bill

The Masonic Tavern in Devonport as it looked before an apartment development. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The Masonic Tavern in Devonport as it looked before an apartment development. Photo / Brett Phibbs

One of Auckland's most active, successful heritage groups is planning liquidation after a $27,000 bill from losing a battle to save one of the city's oldest hotels.

Devonport Heritage Inc is holding a special meeting on September 14 to vote on the appointment of a liquidator and a notice has just gone out to all members from chairwoman Trish Deans.

Margot McRae, deputy chairwoman, today said that liquidation was planned as a result of a $27,000 bill for court costs after the group's unsuccessful Environment Court attempt to save the Masonic Tavern in 2010.

The bill was originally $21,000 but interest costs had been added taking it to $27,000, she said.

"We can't face going to court. We don't have any money. I've been hounded all year," she said - referring to contact from a credit company.

"We'd have to defend ourselves in court and we don't have any money," she said.

The group had been operating for 24 years.

"We have lifted the awareness of heritage protection and the importance of saving our buildings. That has grown so hugely since we started and we don't know what things we've prevented happening. People who have wanted to demolish - they won't do it in Devonport now. People know they would get a hell of a lot of noise from 'those heritage people', which we've been called for years," McRae said.

Deans said the hotel was the oldest in Auckland which had been continually used as a hotel.

"It was used since 1866. The whole building had been registered originally. It was part of Auckland's maritime history, with the boat builders down in Torpedo Bay," Deans said.

"Liquidation is a pointless exercise because we only ever have about $1000 in the bank. We never sought to raise money. The $1000 is to go to our annual heritage week," she said.

Chris Darby, a North Shore representative on Auckland Council, is unhappy about the liquidation.

"But you'll never ever liquidate that fierce representation. It's just in the DNA of Devonport and that's why we have a beautiful place. This is another chapter in Devonport's resilient history of standing up and shaking the community. That will live on," Darby said.

The Environment Court awarded costs to Redback Develop which has now built 10 apartments on King Edward Parade, Devonport.

Deans said earlier this year that the society would not be dissolved but had decided to continue as Devonport Heritage Inc in the short term.

The group was active in making presentations on the Unitary Plan. That plan removed demolition protection to tens of thousands of old wooden villas and bungalows spread across Auckland.

The Masonic Friendly Society and Devonport Heritage appealed against a consent to develop apartments on the hotel site because they believed the front of the 1860s hotel would be largely rebuilt and original parts would be demolished. Two neighbours of the hotel also appealed.

In July 2011, the Auckland Council withdrew a $106,500 claim for costs against the community groups and the trust.

This followed a 10-8 vote to accept a motion from Heritage Forum chairwoman Sandra Coney.

The Herald reported in 2011 how Auckland Council and North Shore City spent $322,838 on the court defence of the Redback resource consent.

Auckland heritage campaigner Allan Matson said the threat of having to pay huge costs for a failed appeal was a serious concern.

Groups operated on often slim resources so could not afford to have costs awarded against them, he said.

- NZ Herald

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