A controversial state housing development in Northland came to an abrupt halt the day contractors arrived to prepare for the demolition of a structure, only to be told it may be designated a heritage site.
The drama on Puriri Park Rd in Whangārei started on the afternoon of May 11, when a crew came to demolish a house right next to a parcel of green space Kāinga Ora Home and Communities bought for the construction of state houses.
Earlier that day, the Puriri Park and Maunu Residents Society lodged an application with Heritage New Zealand for the house, which Kāinga Ora bought together with land as part of the state housing development, to be designated as a historical place.
The site on which the house sits has been earmarked for a road leading to and from the
new state houses.
Apart from the application, the society is putting together a petition to be submitted to Parliament next week for an enquiry to be undertaken in respect of the use, purchase, consenting, and development of the land on which state houses would be built.
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Kāinga Ora, a Crown entity comprising KiwiBuild, Housing New Zealand, and its development subsidiary, Hobsonville Land Company, will build 37 mostly one and two-bedroom houses on 3.2 hectares of land zoned residential housing by the Whangārei District Council.
In November, independent commissioners gave the state housing development the green light despite 98 per cent of public submitters being opposed to the plan. Many residents of Puriri Park Rd and surrounding streets as well as the society have long opposed the development.
Puriri Park and Maunu Residents Society chairman Trevor Reader said his members had a meeting via Zoom two weeks ago and part of the discussion was that since the house was turning 100 next year, why could it not be listed as a historical place.
Through discussions with the family of William Hector McBeath— the first person to build on the site— the historical value of the house came to light from journal entries and photos provided by his granddaughter, who lives in Auckland.
"That formed the basis of the claim we've lodged with Heritage New Zealand. We are told that Heritage New Zealand's wait list for Northland is 18 months so we're in a holding pattern at the moment."
Reader said the society has informed the demolition crew and Kāinga Ora about the claim and said the Crown entity didn't research about the descendants of McBeath.
But a Kāinga Ora spokesman said the house currently has no heritage designation and none of the submitters to the resource consent hearing — written or verbal — made any reference to the heritage values of the site.
He confirmed the development has been deferred in order to seek expert advice on the
house's heritage value.
Once advice was received and considered, he said the community would be informed about Kāinga Ora's next course of action.
The resource consent application to WDC, he said, included the fact the house would be cleared to make way for the new state houses.
Heritage New Zealand's area manager Northland, Bill Edwards, said the decision on whether or not to designate would not be quick.
"We need to do an assessment of the house. It's about recognising the value of the place. It's architecture, the person who lived there as a child, mound used to build it, as well as the fact it's an early European building with a really good family history."
Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti said McBeath's family lived in two tents before the house was built and said William McBeath's son Lawrence was born in one of the tents.
Born in 1918, Lawrence died in 2012 at the age of 95 in Selwyn Park Retirement Village, about 300m from the house he was born in.
Dr Reti said Lawrence's daughter dug out old photos and journals that formed part of the claim to Heritage NZ.
The state housing development includes 15 one-bedroom duplexes, four two-bedroom duplexes, a three-bedroom standalone house, six three-bedroom duplexes, eight four-bedroom duplexes and three five-bedroom standalone homes.