Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Threat to Auckland character main streets

Heritage lobby group says best Edwardian commercial areas could be lost under Unitary Plan.

The coalition is promoting the Brisbane model, which prevents demolition of pre-1945 houses unless the owner can make a case.
The coalition is promoting the Brisbane model, which prevents demolition of pre-1945 houses unless the owner can make a case.

The early commercial strips of Karangahape Rd, Kingsland, Dominion Rd and Ponsonby Rd are under threat from the draft Unitary Plan, say heritage groups.

The council's heritage advisory panel is concerned that there has been limited investigation of character status for early town centres, saying Karangahape Rd should be given priority as a character area.

The Character Coalition - an umbrella organisation of 60 heritage and community groups - says Karangahape Rd, Kingsland, Dominion Rd and Ponsonby Rd contain some of the best architectural records of Edwardian commercial development.

However, it said these areas were threatened by plans for three- to four-storey buildings that created an incentive to demolish, and seismic upgrades that could spell doom for continuous blocks of heritage stock.

The Character Coalition and heritage advisory panel support the overall thrust of intensification in the Unitary Plan, but are concerned that intensification is being provided before historic heritage assessments have been carried out.

The panel considers that a staged approach to intensification using plan changes would enable proper assessment for historic values.

The Character Coalition said going with a "one size fits all" zoning framework forced some areas into categories that would strip them of much of their character.

It has called on the council to take more time to develop a staged series of local plans based on detailed local input and good design.

The coalition is promoting the Brisbane model, which prevents demolition of pre-1945 houses unless the owner can make a case.

On a visit to Auckland in March, Queensland Government architect Malcolm Middleton said the Brisbane model had been considered radical when it was introduced 15 years ago, but was now largely accepted and worked for the amenity and value of character suburbs.

"The methods used by Brisbane, a close example of a city that had undergone the Super City experience, were used as a model for what Auckland could do to reverse a decades-long pattern of weak protections and major heritage loss," the coalition's submission said.

The council has rejected the Brisbane model and proposed that council and consultant planners decide, using case law, if resource consent applications for demolition in character heritage areas should be publicly notified or not.

The council has also proposed widening the heritage net to pre-1944 houses outside the existing character heritage areas and requiring owners to obtain a resource consent for demolition.

Heritage feedback

*Too little protection for early commercial strips.
*Heritage assessments should come before intensification.
*Use Brisbane model of notifying demolition consents.
*Support for widening heritage net to include pre-1944 housing.

- NZ Herald

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