Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Paget St planner linked to earlier demolition

Number 18 Paget St in Freemans Bay. Photo / Dean Purcell
Number 18 Paget St in Freemans Bay. Photo / Dean Purcell

The consultant planner who approved the demolition of a 130-year-old Freemans Bay cottage also approved the removal of three distinctive St Heliers homes last year.

The Turua St case sparked a public uproar and led to a promise from new Super City Mayor Len Brown to do his utmost to avoid a repeat.

The council has hired the same consultant planner it used at Turua St, Brooke Dales, to hear the case at Paget St in Freemans Bay.

In both cases, Mr Dales decided the applications would not be publicly notified and the buildings could go.

The Auckland branch chairman of the Historic Places Trust, Guy King, yesterday said Mr Dales should never have been given the Paget St case after the controversy at Turua St.

The Herald understands the Paget St cottage could have originally been located at the Army barracks that once stood in Albert Park, which would significantly increase its heritage value.

Last month, Mr Dales granted resource consent to Herne Bay businesswoman Wynnis Armour to demolish the cottage on a large section at 18 Paget St, which she bought in November 2010 for $2 million.

Top Auckland Council officials have been forced to review Mr Dales' decision after Herald revelations that he 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 that the application should be declined.

When approached by the Herald last night, Mr Dales said he had been advised by the council not to comment.

"Their [the council's] instruction to planning consultants is not to comment to the press and rather to leave that to them."

Fae White, who lived at 18 Paget St from 1948 until last year, said the cottage was moved from the barracks to Herne Bay for about four years before being moved to Freemans Bay.

She said it had been in the family since 1908 and on the site for many years before that. Council records show a house on the site in 1882.

The Albert Barracks was built in 1845 as a secure base for about 900 British troops to defend Auckland against Maori threats. The barracks was cleared away and converted into what is now Albert Park in the 1880s.

Ms White said the connection to Albert Barracks was made when her family commissioned a thesis on the property about 20 years ago.

Dave Pearson, the heritage architect commissioned by Ms Armour's planner, Martin Green, said he had seen the thesis, which he described as amateur. The links between the cottage and the Albert Barracks were conjecture, he said.

Mr Pearson said he had never said the cottage could be demolished, but was not against moving it.

His report said the cottage was at variance with most two-storey cottages on the same western side of Paget St and removing it would not detract substantially from the continuity and special character of the streetscape.

Waitemata councillor Mike Lee said the council's connivance in heritage building destruction was not a new issue and needed to be sorted, saying "the current process is crap and open to abuse".

"As this goes on Auckland is losing its invaluable history built heritage and the Auckland Council is losing its reputation," Mr Lee said.

He wanted applications to demolish heritage buildings go to the appropriate local board and ward councillor.

- NZ Herald

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