A little piece of Sir Edmund Hillary's family history - a century-old villa belonging to his grandmother - was removed from its site in Mt Eden last week to be replaced with three three-storey townhouses.

The four-bedroom villa was built for Sir Edmund's maternal grandmother, Harriet Clarke, in 1908.

She had 11 children and lived at the house she called "Whakahara" until her death in 1937.

Sir Ed's daughter, Sarah Hillary, said it was sad to see such a historic home go.


"It's quite nice to keep these old houses because they are so beautiful and such an important part of our history ... hopefully that house will go somewhere and it hasn't just been ruined."

The Herbert Rd property was sold last year by artist John Horner and his wife, Jeanette Hayward, for $2,615,000, nearly $1 million above its 2011 government valuation of $1.65 million.

Developer Victor Rao plans to build three three-storey townhouses on the 1247sq m site, a prospect that locals say is inconsistent with the character of the surrounding neighbourhood.

"Three storeys of brick veneer, aluminium windows and shingle roofing? They are all single-level old houses around here. It's outrageous," said resident Lucille Peters.

The villa was cut in two and removed from the site on Tuesday night for relocation amid angry protests from the community.

Auckland councillor and Mt Eden resident Chris Fletcher says the case is a tragic outcome for the community and is unhappy at the council processes.

Council officials said Mr Rao was acting within the rules to remove the house and build townhouses on the site. Herbert Rd was not a character heritage street and had yet to be assessed for heritage status.

The property is zoned 6a, which allows Mr Rao to build to 8m. Plans show he has squeezed a third storey within the 8m height and height-to-boundary rules by incorporating a pitched roof on the top storey of each townhouse.

Mr Rao told the Herald the property was not a heritage house and what he was doing by moving it - reportedly to Warkworth - and building three townhouses was legal.

His first proposal for the site was rejected on January 15 and he has been asked to provide further details of new plans he submitted on January 23.

Ms Peters and another resident, Fiona McDonald, believe the council request for further details is tacit approval with a few minor adjustments.

They want the council to ensure that what is built is consistent with the character of the neighbourhood and that affected residents have asay.