St Heliers homes unlikely to be relocated

By Paul Harper

The Turua St buildings which are set to be demolished. Photo / Paul Estcourt.
The Turua St buildings which are set to be demolished. Photo / Paul Estcourt.

Three art-deco homes in St Heliers at the centre of a furore over Auckland's heritage preservation are unlikely to be relocated, Auckland Council's chief executive says.

The Spanish-style Turua Street buildings were due to be demolished last month by developer Mike Markham's Ancona Group but were given a temporary reprieve by the council, which is looking into whether the buildings can be given heritage status.

The council has three options - either let the developer continue with the development, relocate the buildings at a cost of at least $2.2 million, or purchase the site and buildings at a minimum of $5 million.

Further discussions between Ancona Group and Auckland Council are scheduled for next week.

In a memo to Mayor Len Brown, councillors and some council staff updating the situation, council chief executive Doug McKay said the buildings were unlikely to receive heritage protection.

"Their properties have no heritage values identified and no evidence appears to be available to support a heritage order. Council heritage expert, George Farrant, has stated the properties would not achieve heritage status under the 27-point evaluation used," he wrote.

The properties were the scene of vocal demonstrations last month as protestors decried what they see as the destruction of Auckland's heritage.

Ancona has given the council an undertaking demolition work on the properties will remain suspended as council considers its options. In the meantime, work on the demolition of other properties in the area not involved in this agreement is due to begin within the next few days.

After the initial meeting with the developer, Mr Brown said he accepted Ancona had a legitimate right to redevelop the land but noted it was a willing participant in this initiative.

However he said people should remain realistic about possible outcomes of the process.

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer, a supporter of the Save Turua Street group, said the six-year process deciding the fate of buildings has been a debacle from start to finish.

"We've got a very unhappy community and a very frustrated newly-elected council which at best have been spectators in all of this," Mr Brewer said.

"This whole issue has shown that Aucklanders' highly value their built environment and the character of their villages. After years of desecration of Auckland's built environment, people have had a guts full. Turua Street has really been a metaphor of a wider public mood.

"For too long the Auckland public has been promised heritage only to then have the likes of developers, private plan changes, and the Environment Court move the goal posts."

- NZ Herald

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