The future of the 100-year-old Yates Building in central Auckland is looking grim after the failure of a bid to gain it the highest protected status.
The Environment Court has declined the application by heritage campaigner Allan Matson and the Auckland Council to give the highest heritage status to the building and two adjoining buildings in Albert St and Wolfe St.
Instead of the category A status being sought by Mr Matson and the council, the court has ruled that the main Yates building in Albert St should be scheduled category B and there should be no protection for the other two buildings.
The ruling means owner Stuart Galloway can proceed with plans to sell them so the entire block can be redeveloped for a high-rise tower - subject to obtaining resource consent for partial or total demolition of the main building.
Council lawyer Bill Loutit told the court that nearly all heritage witnesses agreed the buildings would score category A together and all three should be scored as a group, preventing substantial or total demolition.
Heritage consultant Dr Ann McEwan said 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 of national importance - Arthur Yates, who turned Yates & Co into the largest seed company in the colonies, she said.
In a written decision from a panel headed by Justice Craig Thompson, the court ruled that an appraisal of the main building by the former Auckland City Council in 2005 as a category B building was "much more defensible".
Mr Matson, who has been fighting to save the buildings for eight years, was surprised the court had rejected the "unanimous position of five heritage experts" and had proceeded to score the building itself.
Mayor Len Brown was also disappointed that the court had reinforced the former Auckland City Council's category B rating. He said the ruling highlighted that going to court would not always succeed.