Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Bulldozers busy since Brown took over council

The 130-year-old cottage in Paget St, Freemans Bay. Photo / Dean Purcell
The 130-year-old cottage in Paget St, Freemans Bay. Photo / Dean Purcell

A higher percentage of applications to bulldoze homes in Auckland City's character suburbs are being approved under Mayor Len Brown than under his predecessor John Banks, a Herald survey has found.

Since 2007, 73 resource consents have been granted to demolish pre-1940 homes in the Residential 1 and 2 character suburbs. Six were for partial demolition.

Under Mr Brown's watch, 24 homes have been lost compared with 49 under Mr Banks. But on a percentage basis, Mr Brown's council is approving 20 per cent more consents.

However, council planning officers are resisting plans by the council's heritage advisory panel for urgent action to tighten up the rules meant to protect the inner city and established character suburbs.

The 16-member heritage panel is worried that the community is having no say on applications to demolish homes. The Herald survey shows only two of the 73 applications were publicly notified and five had limited notification.

The council approval which allowed demolition of a 130-year-old cottage in Paget St, Freemans Bay, was the catalyst for the panel to press the council to urgently look at initiating a plan change or varying the rules for the demolition or removal of pre-1940 buildings in the Residential 1 and 2 zones and other heritage character areas in Auckland.

In the Paget St case, consultant planner Brooke Dales was given the case at the 11th hour after council planner Jonathan Blackmore supported the view of a conservation architect that the application should be declined.

Mr Dales decided the public would have no say and recommended it be demolished.

The panel chairwoman, councillor Sandra Coney, said planning officers opposed taking urgent action on the grounds any changes should be part of a new unitary plan, which, she said, was about two years away.

At the current rate that was the demolition of another 30 homes, "which is 30 too many for me".

Ms Coney said not all the decisions were wrong, but some were. A good example was Paget St, she said, where the significance of the house to people in the street and a deeper understanding of the history of the property did not emerge until after consent was granted.

Mr Brown issued a statement from China, where he is leading a trade delegation, dismissing immediate action to stem the demolition of homes and give the public a say.

"The unitary plan process will establish the rules that govern development and how we deal with heritage protection. There are legal issues that would hamper immediate action as the last plan change is still before the courts. I'm also wary about distracting from the current process with yet more planning," he said.

But Mr Brown said he was open to suggestions on how to better protect Auckland's heritage and would be discussing the matter with councillors and officers.

Its chief planning officer, Dr Roger Blakeley, defended the council's record on Residential 1 and 2 approvals.

He said that of the 73 applications, six were for partial demolition, 15 homes were of poor structural quality and 31 had been modified, two were retrospective and three were declined by the council but approved by the Environment Court.

- NZ Herald

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