Heritage experts are decrying plans to demolish a prominent South Island hotel.

Sheila Watson, Heritage New Zealand southern region general manager, and Auckland-based heritage advocate Allan Matson expressed regrets about an application to demolish Timaru's Hydro Grand for a $40 million-$42 million redevelopment.

Watson said staff from her office met the owner's consultant in 2014.

Allan Booth of Bayhill Developments was then understood to be assessing an option to demolish the hotel and build a multi-use development, she said.


"There have not been any communications with us since that time. Wherever possible, Heritage New Zealand supports the retention of heritage buildings. Once the relevant facts of the proposal and the application itself are received, Heritage New Zealand would then assess whether or not to make a submission during the resource consent stage," Watson said.

Allan Matson raised issues about the reasons being cited for demolition and replacement plans.

"The images of the proposed new building are underwhelming, though no doubt a creative narrative has been constructed to persuade submitters and decision-makers that this mod-box development will be a wonderful asset for Timaru.

"I also read the Hydro Grand's demolition is necessitated by it's derelict state and the fact it has been lying empty for a decade. The decision not to maintain and lease the former hotel is the responsibility of the owner, and the building's demolition by neglect is the outcome of the owner's abrogation of moral (rather than legal) duty to protect Timaru's heritage."

The owner is said to have 'looked at' strengthening the building, and architects Salmond Reed have apparently advised that the project could not achieve a commercial return on an investment that incorporated adaptive re-use of the hotel," Matson said.

"Salmond Reed are architects and do not to my knowledge have expertise in financial matters. The project viability will depend on the level of profit sought by the owner, and whether that is the maximum return or simply a reasonable return which is all that the owner is entitled to under the Resource Management Act.

"With the additional height sought for the mod-box development and my understanding that the existing building occupies only some of the site, I would be surprised if there wasn't a solution that could provide Mr Booth a reasonable return on his investment without demolishing the city's heritage," Matson said.

Booth said it might cost $12 million to $15 million to strengthen the hotel.

"It would be stupid to strengthen it. We looked at that," he said last week.

His plans are being notified and a hearing commissioner appointed to consider submissions.