Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Historic buildings' fate in hands of court

The Yates Building (pictured in 1927) in Albert St, central Auckland. The owner, Stu Galloway, wants to demolish it and build a tower. Photo / Allan Matson
The Yates Building (pictured in 1927) in Albert St, central Auckland. The owner, Stu Galloway, wants to demolish it and build a tower. Photo / Allan Matson

The outcome of the battle to save three historic Auckland buildings could be known in a few weeks.

After three days last week, the Environment Court adjourned until August 16 when three engineers will give evidence, then a reserved decision is expected from the panel headed by Justice Craig Thompson.

Stuart Galloway, director of companies owning the old Yates office and warehouse, is battling Auckland Council and the Auckland Society for Amenity Protection over the degree of protection the blocks will get.

He wants the buildings to have lower status so he can sell them but they want higher protections, which would likely prevent New Zealand's tallest hotel/office tower of 65 levels from being built there.

Galloway, represented by Sue Simons, went against Bill Loutit for the council and Kitt Littlejohn for the society.

The society and council want the highest heritage category A, preventing major demolition or alteration.

Dr Ann McEwan, of Heritage Consultancy Services, said using the council's evaluation criteria meant the former Arthur Yates & Co office and warehouse between Albert, Wolfe and Federal Sts should be ranked A.

The buildings were intimately connected with a person or group of national importance: Arthur Yates, born in England in 1861 who came to New Zealand in 1879. By the turn of the 20th century, Yates was the largest seed company in the colonies, she said.

Jeremy Salmond, of Salmond Reed Architects, said experts representing all parties had acknowledged the structures' historic significance, although there was disagreement about its rating. Arguments had been presented that the buildings were lower-ranking because they had been significantly altered but he cited others like that: Auckland Art Gallery, the former Chief Post Office, former Princes St Synagogue and the Civic Theatre.

Robin Byron, an architectural heritage adviser for the Historic Places Trust, said all the buildings deserved recognition of cultural heritage significance so should be ranked A.

Brian Putt, principal of Metro Planning, said an A rating did not mean the Yates sites was incapable of reasonable use and the land owner would not be subjected to an unfair or unreasonable burden.

But Galloway said he wanted to sell the buildings, was not a property developer but an investor and outside court said that he had not won the Golden Kiwi, as reported last week.

"I purchased the Yates Buildings and Link House in reliance on the consent notice as I perceived it to be a clear indication from the council that development of the whole block was considered appropriate," he told the court.

His expenses to date on the site were $22.3 million, including purchase and holding costs, he said.

Craige Mayo, of Global Outlook, presented an image of a 65-level glass structure, originally designed by Warren & Mahoney, where international hotel chain Carlson might operate.

Allan Matson, of the Auckland Society for Amenity Protection, questioned the image.

"It looks transparent, most opaque as though it's not going to be there. It's all glass and what building looks like that?" Mr Matson asked, questioning whether it would ever be built.

The graffiti-bombed Yates building was one of Mayor Len Brown's 100 projects in 100 days, painted just before Rugby World Cup, after an outcry from the neighbourhood.

HERITAGE OR NOT?
* Old buildings bounded by Albert, Federal and Wolfe Sts.
* Owner fighting scheduling which would bar demolition.
* Yates Building, built by seed merchants, is in the battle.
* Plans for a 65-level, 300-room international hotel/office block.
* Hearing held in Environment Court last week.
* Final evidence from three engineers presented on August 16.

- NZ Herald

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