Century-old kauri building in way of Q Theatre

By John Watson

The Q Theatre development project in central Auckland could have hit another snag after more than 7000 people signed a petition to save a century-old kauri building in its path.

The petition was started about two years ago when Rick Littlewood gained a short-term lease for his Japanese sake bar Nombe, and heard Q Theatre planned to demolish the building to construct its new performing arts centre.

The building - beside the Auckland Town Hall on Queen St - is protected by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

It is one of only two kauri buildings more than 100 years old on Queen St, the other one being the Caretakers Cottage in Myers Park.

Auckland City Council awarded Q Theatre resource consent and the right to demolish the building in March this year. Q Theatre had intended to turn the building site into a smoking area, Mr Littlewood said.

In March, the Historic Places Trust wrote to the council advising that resource consent could be given to Q Theatre, but that the theatre company would have to have an archaeological assessment and authority from the trust before demolition.

The Q Theatre was unaware that the site had any archaeological interest and there was no mention of it in the resource consent report prepared by Auckland City Council, project manager Ben Gurton said.

Managing director of Q Theatre Susanne Ritzenhoff said the building had to go and denied the space would be used as a smoking area.

"It sits on the site that the Auckland City Council has given us to develop the theatre, and Nombe only uses around a third if not a quarter of the strip so there's a lot of wasteland."

Mr Littlewood said the petition would be presented to the mayor when he was sure the demolition would go ahead. "If that doesn't work, I'll chain myself to the bar and go down drinking."

- NZ Herald

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