Top Auckland Council officials have been forced to reconsider a hotly debated decision to allow demolition of a 130-year-old cottage in Freemans Bay.
Herne Bay businesswoman Wynnis Armour was granted resource consent last month to demolish the small cottage on a large section at 18 Paget St which she bought in November 2010.
She paid $2 million for the property, which has panoramic views of the city skyline.
The Weekend Herald has learned that the resource consent application was granted by a consultant planner, Brooke Dales, who was given the case at the 11th hour.
Mr Dales replaced a council planner, Jonathan Blackmore, who had been working on the application for five months and supported the view of the council's conservation architect, Stephen Curham, that the application should be declined.
As well, council officers did not notify the Waitemata Local Board about the case, despite a decision by the governing body that local boards should be involved in contentious resource consents, such as the demolition of heritage buildings.
Records show the simple cottage dates back to at least 1882 and has an addition made no later than 1908.
The front of the house has a mix of original features and bungalow-style additions thought to have been added between the two world wars.
In response to Weekend Herald inquiries, resource consents manager Ian Smallburn said Mr Blackmore was replaced by Mr Dales because the case was complex and he was a more experienced planner.
But this claim was called a "sick joke" by Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers.
Waitemata councillor Mike Lee accused the council's planning management of being determined to allow developers to have their way in destroying heritage buildings regardless of public opinion.
Yesterday, after calls to chief executive Doug McKay, who was on holiday, and talks with the mayoral office, the council issued a statement saying it would undertake a full peer review of the consent decision next week.
"This is a sensitive issue and the council is acutely aware of the value and importance of our built heritage," the statement said.
Acting chief executive and chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley said the review would be overseen by Mr McKay and would include senior planning and legal officers.
It would be completed by next Friday, he said.
The council file shows that Ms Armour's planner, Martin Green, vigorously challenged the Mr Curham's view that the application should be declined because it did not meet the criteria for the Residential 1 heritage zone controls and the effects of demolition on the heritage values of Paget St were more than minor.
Mr Green was concerned that too much emphasis was being placed on the heritage elements of the house.
Dave Pearson, a heritage architect commissioned by Mr Green, said the single-storey cottage could be demolished because it was at variance with the majority of two-storey cottages on the same western side of Paget St.
Ms Armour, who made the application as a trustee for the Wallace Trust, and Mr Green declined to comment yesterday.