A 135-year-old cottage on death row for four years has finally been demolished by a business couple for a large four-bedroom house.
David Elder and Wynnis Armour got a gang of workers to raze the Freemans Bay cottage this week.
The simple cottage, dating back to at least 1882, made headlines in 2012 when the Weekend Herald learned a council planner who believed demolition consent should be declined on conservation grounds was replaced by a consultant planner who granted consent.
A subsequent review found the council followed the correct procedures, but it was also possible that a different conclusion could have been reached which would have been equally defensible.
The cottage at 18 Paget St with panoramic views of the city skyline was purchased by the couple in 2010 for $2 million. It is now valued at $2.95 million, of which the land is worth $2.85 million.
The simple white painted cottage with a blue corrugated iron roof survived for the past four years but was removed this week - two months before the demolition consent expires in December.
The council's central consents manager, Mark White, said "we were not notified of the demolition but there was no legal obligation for the applicant to do so".
The council has not granted consent for the new house, which is bigger than the allowable site coverage and infringes the height to boundary rules. The application is on hold awaiting more information from the couple.
Armour did not respond to approaches through the recruitment company she and Elder founded. Sarah Burgess, the planner from Barker & Associates preparing the application for the couple, said she was under instructions not to talk to the media.
Plans lodged with the council show the couple are planning a 234sq m house on the 685sq m section in keeping with two-to-three-storey villas along the western side of Paget St.
The plans show the house will be three storeys at the front with a lower level triple garage and mostly single storey at the rear. The high spec house has a master bedroom opening out to a swimming pool, courtyard, fireplace and pergola. Other features include a library, gym or wine cellar. It will have traditional corrugated roofing.
Waitemata councillor Mike Lee, who chairs the council's heritage advisory panel, has called the Paget St case hurtful and believes the current system is rigged against protecting heritage in favour of "Johnny-come-lately developers".
Another member of the heritage advisory panel, Helen Geary, said demolition of the cottage was really sad news.
She said the cottage was considered worth preserving under the previous Auckland City Council rules, which required resource consent to demolish in the special character suburb.
Geary said heritage protection had not been strengthened under the new Unitary Plan and it was the second demolition of a significant heritage house in a week, citing the loss of an "art deco treasure" on the seafront at Takapuna.
Richard Beckett, the previous owner of the family home at 19 Brett Ave - sold by his trust for $6 million - complained it had suddenly been flattened when he thought it was protected.
Beckett was upset and taken aback that new rules had allowed its demolition without even the need to apply for resource consent.