Heritage advocates are decrying Anglican Church plans to demolish two century-old Parnell homes - but the church says it needs to remove the buildings so it can lease the land for development to earn money for the upkeep of other buildings.

Julie Hill, Parnell Heritage co-chair, said some were upset by imminent plans to demolish the pair of two-level wooden neighbouring homes at 1a Brighton Rd and 9 St Stephens Ave, beside the Holy Trinity Cathedral on Parnell Rd.

1a Brighton Rd and 9 St Stephens Ave, to be demolished. Photo/Dean Purcell
1a Brighton Rd and 9 St Stephens Ave, to be demolished. Photo/Dean Purcell

"It's demolition by neglect," said Hill. "These two homes have played an important role in the early 20th-century history of the area, built around 1910 to 1920 so we're very concerned. A lot of people have been in touch with us."

But asked if she had any complaints about the imminent demolition, Holy Trinity Cathedral Dean Anne Mills said: "Absolutely none. Since we announced our plans to establish an endowment fund for Holy Trinity Cathedral to our parishioners and then the stakeholders on April 22, I have had no formal complaints nor criticism, either verbally or in writing."

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In a letter published online last month, Mills wrote that annual cathedral, grounds and associated building maintenance was $300,000-plus annually. That figure was predicted to rise.

So the two sites, zoned for terraces and apartments under the Unitary Plan, would be leased long-term to a developer for apartment development.

9 St Stephens Ave, to be demolished. Photo/Dean Purcell
9 St Stephens Ave, to be demolished. Photo/Dean Purcell

All 17 protected trees would be kept, the homes were not listed as heritage and it was not economically feasible to keep them because refurbishment to a commercial standard would be so expensive, she wrote.

Activity was due to start by late last month but was delayed by a gas pipeline which needed to be disconnected.

Vernon Tava, Waitematā Local Board member, said after the land was re-zoned, the church got a code of compliance certificate which allowed it to demolish or relocate the two homes.

Mills said relocation had not proved an option because due to the homes' size and their structure, it had proved "too expensive and as a result, the decision has been made to demolish the two buildings. Work at the site commences on April 23," she wrote.

Bishop Selwyn Chapel beside the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Photo/supplied
Bishop Selwyn Chapel beside the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Photo/supplied

Hill said people had complained directly to Parnell Heritage and the dean. One man, whose family had lived in the area for 75 years, said he was "so upset about the old buildings being allowed to decay and being demolished".

The cathedral had built a new "golden temple", he said, referring to the $15 million Fearon Hay Architects' award-winning chapel, yet was engaging in "wanton destruction" of the two homes.

Mills said the chapel money was raised before that project began and the church was unable to afford the $300,000-plus maintenance bill without leasing land on its two house sites.

Jenny Leatham wrote to Hill: "As a member of the Anglican Church and also Parnell Heritage, like many, I have been saddened by the demolition by neglect of the two old houses that are now due for active demolition. It has been difficult to accept that the church has been unable to refurbish and use the houses when there has all the time been such a need for accommodation, yet funds have been found to undertake other work that might well have waited."

Mills said neither house had been occupied for some time. Hill said fire and safety concerns resulted in them being empty for years.

Auckland Council records showed 1a Brighton Rd was a pre-1900 structure, relocated on that site in 1983. Neo-Georgian in style, the old deanery or friary was in poor condition.

A council spokesperson said neither of the buildings were listed as historic heritage places under the Auckland Unitary Plan.