A North Shore neighbourhood group is upset that a couple have been granted approval to supersize their beachfront, heritage-listed property.

Consent has been granted for plans to build a house extension, swimming pool and vehicle turntable on land beside a house on Oxford Terrace, in Devonport.

The renovations involve an approximate doubling in size of the existing building, formerly known as Canavan House and listed as a category B building on Auckland Council's schedule of historic heritage.

A stucco three-storey house, with bands of picture windows, it was built in 1941 for Graham Routh Canavan of the RNZAF. At the time he commissioned the home, Canavan was a 'Government control officer.'


Council records say the architect was Ronald Beatson, of Takapuna and the house was said to reflect the influence of the "intentional style" on domestic architecture.

The latest QV rating valuation from 1 July 2017 valued the house at $7,050,000.

Reports prepared by Auckland Council relating to the consent application noted the house was "somewhat of a landmark on Cheltenham Beach" while the home's heritage listing notes said its currently minimalist surroundings drew attention to its "sentinel-like appearance".

However, plans for development sat within guidelines in both design and scale.

One of the property owners, Nick Hawkins, said he had worked extensively with a leading architect to ensure the heritage aspects of the property were maintained.

"We also commissioned a heritage impact assessment from a heritage expert and the conclusion was that the renovation can be seen to have an enhancing effect on the building," Hawkins said.

The renovations would involve an approximate doubling in size of the existing building. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
The renovations would involve an approximate doubling in size of the existing building. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

The report commissioned by the owners noted the addition to the property had been "deliberately designed to both reference Canavan House" while also providing contrast "so as not to mimic the main building".

But while Auckland Council reports agreed the plans were "consistent" with both the RMA and the criteria of the Auckland Unitary Plan, Devonport Heritage said the consent showed "inconsistency" in council's overall approach to heritage.

Trish Deans, chairwoman of Devonport Heritage - a community group formed last year to celebrate and encourage heritage protection in the area - called the granting of consent "absolutely disappointing".

"You buy into this neighbourhood knowing you're buying into a heritage area. Most people respect that," she said.

She was concerned with the process the led to consent for the project.

An Auckland Council report in February said the scale of the proposal was "potentially beyond what is anticipated in the heritage overlay" and could create heritage impacts that were "more than minor".

The decision was therefore that the application would proceed on a "publicly notified" basis - meaning the general public would be informed of the application and be able to make submissions.

However the latest documentation- an Auckland Council report dated June - reversed this decision and stated the application would proceed without public notification.

Speaking to the Weekend Herald about the change the leader of Council's Heritage Implementation Team, Rebecca Fogel, said this was partially due to additional information submitted by the owners.

Revised plans omitted details in the original scheme such as a detached boat shed.

Another element was changes to the Resource Management Act.

In a statement, Fogel said she was aware some locals were unhappy about the planned additions and alterations.

"While we are sorry to hear that Heritage Devonport is opposed to the plans, we stand by our assessment of this project.

"Auckland Council is committed to protecting heritage and have a team of passionate staff dedicated to this work."

This lack of notification also irked another Oxford Terrace resident, who learnt of the plans through community chatter and a report in the local paper.

The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she now felt powerless to do anything to prevent the plans going ahead.

"When they made their application, it wasn't notified. So they put an application in, and we find out about it after it's been approved."

She had an issue with the style and the scale of the development, which she said would overshadow the existing heritage building.

"It's just the overall size of it… it's going to be this massive house on the foreshore."

The neighbour was also upset off about the removal of an 80-year-old pohutukawa tree, which was cut down to make room for the new development.

While she understood the removal was legal, the Devonport local described the loss as a "travesty".

Nick Hawkins said the existing house on his Oxford Terrace property was in need of "a lot of work.

"In its current state, the wind and rain pass right through it," he said.

"The building is mouldy and rotting, and one of the windows blew out in a recent storm."

Hawkins said development, maintenance and repairs would be done in such as way as to "enhance the existing values of the house and ensure its longevity".