Heritage the price of dream homes

By Georgia Thomson

Bassett Rd is one of the most expensive places in Auckland to buy a house. This is a street full of the remains of heritage homes we were too late to protect from the world's worst kind of evil - property developers.

It is lined with examples of the quick and easy way of getting around the need for resource consent and is the latest and greatest way to build a new house.

Keeping the foundations of an old house and building another on top requires different consent to starting from scratch. A well-to-do family wanting to build their dream home knows the best way to achieve this is to buy a silently decaying and unprotected heritage house with a great location. Then, as soon as the title changes hands, the new buyers can attack.

The house will be stripped, leaving just the foundations and front door intact. Up goes their dream home on top of the foundations that are all that is left of the piece of Auckland's heritage they just destroyed.

It might seem criminal but it's completely normal. Apparently when it comes to progress, preserving our history is not an issue worth considering. We must look to the future, not to the past.

More of Christchurch's heritage homes are being demolished every day, and people are devastated.

As of March, half of the 1000 heritage houses assessed were given a red or yellow sticker. Money can't be found to fix old houses, especially when there are modern homes to repair that have no requirements about retaining their authenticity.

Auckland Council declares on its website that "heritage places are a limited resource which cannot be recreated". But it also admits that "intact built or other remains from the early periods are scarce in Auckland".

It can't be good when our own council has admitted heritage buildings are in short supply. If it cares enough to be putting sad messages up on its website, why isn't it doing anything about it?

Auckland has houses of the same era as Christchurch, and would have just as many worth saving if they hadn't all been demolished already.

How can we stand by while people voluntarily destroy the kinds of houses that the people of Christchurch are going to dearly miss? Auckland's remaining heritage houses are a tangible reminder of how far New Zealand has come, and give us an opportunity to learn about where we came from.

They're not like your old cellphone or iPod. Once these pieces of our heritage are gone, we can never get them back. If Auckland keeps going the way it is, lessons of the past that we might take into the future will be gone.

New Zealand doesn't have a long heritage compared to the rest of the world. We don't have cathedrals that were built in the 8th century, or castles built for royalty with gold door handles and diamonds embedded in the walls.

But that doesn't make our heritage any less important. New Zealand needs to preserve its history so that in a 100 years' time we can say "that house was built 300 years ago".

It's better than having to tell the nations of the world and the future generations of our country that our heritage is gone because somebody's grandfather wanted a nice new house with a swimming pool.

Georgia Thomson, Year 12, St Cuthbert's College

- NZ Herald

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