House colour stand off-ends in acrimony

By Lauren Preistley

Julie Cotton says she can't see why the council has made such a big deal over her house being white, especially as there are other white houses in the area. Photo / Natalie Slade
Julie Cotton says she can't see why the council has made such a big deal over her house being white, especially as there are other white houses in the area. Photo / Natalie Slade

An almost year-long battle between the Auckland Council and the Cotton family over the colour of their 100-year-old dream home has come to an unhappy resolution.

The stand-off began after Julie and Rodney Cotton bought the Epsom heritage villa in January and moved it to a section overlooking Kaipara Harbour.

The villa had been painted white its whole life - a council heritage requirement for a house of that age in Epsom - and the Cottons wanted it to stay that way.

However, shortly after moving it to Tapora, the family were told by a council inspector they had to paint the house one of 50 dark colours, including green, brown, or black.

The order was based on the West Coast Policy Area, which states parts of the North Rodney area landscape are highly exposed to the risks of development, meaning the colour and material of houses should complement the surrounding environment.

After 10 months, the two groups have come to a "resolution" - the Cottons can paint their house a dark cream, as long as it is done within one month.

Auckland Council resource consents manager Heather Harris said that as far as the council was concerned, the case was closed.

"The Cotton family chose a colour from a range of suggested colour schemes and it was approved by council's resource consents team."

The Cottons had a final meeting last week with council chief operating officer Patricia Reade, who said she had no power over the situation.

Mrs Cotton, an Australian interior designer, said she was disappointed with the council's actions.

"It's a resolution of sorts but, at the end of the day, I would just like to paint my house white.

"I've just always wanted a big, white house on a farm.

"I'm not denying that the council bent over a bit, but I'm not giving them a pat on the back because it shouldn't have been an issue to start with.

"Why is it such a problem?"

She was shocked that a white house was considered "offensive" in the New Zealand countryside, she said.

"It was all going tickety-boo then basically we were told that I had to paint it [from] a list of colours.

"I was absolutely horrified. The colours [they offered] were nothing short of abominable."

The house was not visible from the road, and other houses in the area were painted white, she said.

"Hopefully my story makes people realise just how ludicrous the system is.

"It's really harrowing. People are all bound up with red tape."

Landowners and Contractors Protection Association chairman Brian Mason said people were having problems almost daily with the strict regulations.

"The bigger picture, or where we're coming from, is this sort of restriction on people. People are getting kicked back all the time."

Mr Mason said the council's treatment of the North Rodney area needed to improve.

"Let's face it, there are huge rates coming in from this area but we're getting no services."

Auckland heritage expert Dr Rodney Wilson said the extent of council powers over heritage houses needed to be given a good airing.

"Julie Cotton is just one example of this, a story which is just ludicrous.

"She's wanting to paint it white - not pink, or purple."

Dr Wilson said part of the problem was the super city system, with officers in central Auckland regulating places like Kaipara Harbour.

"We have got people who don't know tuppence about what they are talking about, with no one regulating them."

- NZ Herald

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