The Art Deco Trust says plans for a residential development on Napier's old hilltop hospital site have neglected a major tourism opportunity for the city.
Todd Property Group is seeking permission to build two eight-storey apartment blocks, five standalone homes and 21 terraced houses on the site, which has sweeping views of Ahuriri and Napier's harbour.
The company already has consent to build an eight-lot subdivision and refurbish the former Arohaina Maternity Ward into 26 residential apartments on the other end of the 5ha site, which it acquired in 2010.
On the second and final day of a resource consent hearing yesterday, Art Deco Trust general manager Sally Jackson said while Napier was a "major international heritage tourism destination," the city had neglected the story of how the 1931 earthquake had changed the inner harbour, raising new land that had a significant impact on the city's development.
"The reason why it has been neglected is that since the health board sold the car park at the end of Parade St, there has been nowhere on the hill where a bus could take people to view the panorama over Ahuriri and the inner harbour," she said in a submission to hearings commissioner Mike Garland.
"There is enormous potential for the story of the inner harbour to become a major tourist attraction, and the hospital site is the best place to tell it."
In earlier written submissions, the trust and Historic Places Hawke's Bay had asked for a public viewing platform to be included atop one of the apartment blocks if the project went ahead.
Todd Property's lawyer at the hearing, Chris Simmons, said on Monday the viewing platform proposal was not feasible.
Robert McGregor, heritage officer for the trust and deputy chair of HPHB, said in his submission to the hearing yesterday it "beggars belief that this site will become just another private property, with its huge importance unacknowledged".
But senior council planner Paul O'Shaughnessy, who has recommended the project be approved subject to a lengthy set of conditions, said further discussions would be held with Todd Property about adding "heritage elements" to those conditions to acknowledge the historic significance of the site.
Heritage elements could include the naming of a new street planned for the subdivision, the naming of the two tower blocks and installing in-ground plaques setting out historic information along walkways within the development.
Mr Simmons told the hearing Todd Property acknowledged the heritage associated with the site and had always intended to recognise it.
The company's initial resource consent application included plans for a heritage pathway with signs along the southern edge of the property but the application was later modified following discussions with the council and the walkway excluded.
However the company had been considering ways heritage could be incorporated into the design of the development and using historically significant names for the new road and the apartment building names may be suitable ways to "reflect on the site's heritage", he said.
Mr Garland adjourned the hearing yesterday to allow the council and Todd Property to work on finalising the proposed conditions over the next few days. A decision on the consent application is likely before Christmas.