Heritage precincts win court's backing

By Bernard Orsman

A four-year battle to preserve a slice of early history in inner-city Auckland has resulted in stronger heritage controls across the wider central business district.

After battling plans for a 17-storey apartment block in Eden Cres and unsuccessfully lobbying the Auckland City Council for a heritage precinct in the area, the Official Bay Heritage Protection Society has won a bigger battle in the Environment Court.

The court has ruled that the council should strengthen heritage controls in central Auckland so that new developments have regard to nearby scheduled heritage items.

The council had proposed restricting heritage rules for new buildings to abutting or adjacent scheduled heritage buildings, and to building frontages and elevations facing streets and/or public open spaces.

The court said the rules did not mean a rigid adherence to the height of the scheduled heritage item, nor reduce the development potential of a site, "but it does require careful consideration to minimise the effects of dominance on the scheduled heritage item".

City development general manager John Duthie said yesterday that the court had strengthened the council's hand on heritage protection in central Auckland "and that is great".

Society spokesman George Andrews said the court ruling was a rare victory for a small group of about 30 members.

What's more, the society has taken heart from tough economic times taking their toll on the 17-storey Verve apartment block that Perron Developments planned in Eden Cres. Perron has sold the site. Said Mr Andrews: "No bugger is going to put it up now."

He lamented the "goldrush of dreadful apartments buildings" erected around the Parliament St precinct which included the site of New Zealand's first Parliament Building and the historic Government House.

The history of the area stretches back to pre-European times when Maori tied up their canoes at what is now Beach Rd to drink the pure waters of Wai Ariki spring, which became the first water source for early settlers.

By broadening the rules from heritage "buildings" to heritage "items", the court has given greater protection to the spring, which is virtually hidden from view in Eden Crescent.

- NZ Herald

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