Devonport Heritage is fighting against the seaside suburb becoming a fake heritage tourist precinct and has called for a special conservation area for commercial areas to keep it authentic.
In a response to the draft Unitary Plan proposal for a height limit of 16.5m, Heritage chairwoman Claudia Page said Devonport was recognised as a place of significant heritage value.
European settlement began in the 1840s and the first subdivision of the lower part of the main street, Victoria Rd, happened in 1863.
Thirty-four commercial buildings were listed as A or B historic buildings, including the Esplanade Hotel by the wharf and the Victoria Theatre.
However, seven prominent sites in Victoria Rd had single-storey buildings and the potential for redevelopment.
The plan lumped Devonport in with all other town centres, which went against its promise to recognise and respect unique features of diverse communities.
Classing Devonport as a town centre with a 16.5m height zoning could be used to justify increased development and density.
"The classification ignores the fact that most of the buildings in Victoria Rd are Category A listed in the District Plan whose value would be severely compromised if highly glazed four-storey buildings are built around the Category A listed places."
The Unitary Plan proposed to protect business historic areas and heritage areas elsewhere, for example, at Ellerslie. Conservation areas had been established in Renall St, Freemans Bay and in Princes St, City.
Devonport Heritage was proposing a conservation area which did not seek to prevent change but to manage future development to stop historic character being eroded.
Improvement and changes should be made in sympathy with the streetscape as well as the buildings, with rules for signs, street furniture, paving, lighting and paint colours.
Unitary Plan manager John Duguid said: "We are happy to look into this proposal as we go through feedback on the draft Unitary Plan."
Devonport's historic heart
• Esplanade Hotel (1903), Victoria Theatre (1912).
• 34 commercial buildings are listed as scheduled historic in the District Plan.
• 16.5m height allowed in Unitary Plan's town centre proposal.
• 8m or two-storey limit sought by Devonport Heritage's conservation area proposal.