A property developer's plan to turn the former Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital into a countryside living estate has triggered a row over what proportion of the 1930s buildings and their park-like surroundings should stay as a reminder of its past.

Built in a secluded part of South Auckland, the former hospital with its English-style buildings is now in the middle of an Auckland Council scheme to rezone land from rural to urban and establish a Kingseat town centre, taking the village's population from 600 to 5000 people by 2050.

Kingseat Foundation's initial plans for 450 homes on the 58.6ha site has prompted pleas from the Historic Places Trust for better protection of heritage values of buildings and mature specimen trees.

However, some residents have called for a clean slate - demolishing all, or most, of the 58 structures - saying they represent a sad period that should not be perpetuated and highlighted as heritage.


Farmer John Dotchin recalled that the hospital was a good neighbour before it closed in 1999, buildings were well kept and it was like a home to patients who visited the farm to chop firewood and go fishing.

"But there was another section where mentally ill men, women and children were locked in villas 24 hours a day. The fear, insecurity, degradation and horror experienced is well documented," he said.

"It has put a stigma on the place that it was not a very nice place."

Another neighbour, Anthony Gore, said he knew hospital staff. "There's no point keeping the buildings. It's a sad past. Don't go back to that."

Heather Kronast said she had lived near the village for 20 years and said it was good land for cultivating soil and raising cattle.

For seven years, the 1939 brick home has been the base of the Spookers haunted attraction park.

The former hospital is part of the historical and cultural landscape of South Auckland and its buildings are part of that landscape, says a report for next month's hearing of the town centre structure plan. A report by KP Associates planning consultants says a series of assessments identified exceptional significant heritage and landscape value. In one of them, heritage architect Dave Pearson identifies exceptional heritage significance for 14 villas and an administration building, nurses' home, ancillary service buildings, bowling pavilion and a hairdressers' building.

Hospital heritage
* 58.6ha site at 833 Kingseat Rd, Kingseat
* 58-plus buildings built 1930-46
* 1999 ceased use as state psychiatric hospital
* 7 years' use for Spookers entertainment attraction.