A charity that took $27 million in donations last year paid $8m for a Parnell property before knocking down the century-old 5-bedroom house and turning the land into a carpark.
The Blind Foundation is defending the purchase price, which was nearly twice the property's current CV, and its investment decisions.
The organisation is now under investigation by Auckland Council for allegedly failing to obtain necessary resource consents, a claim it disputes.
And questions are being asked about whether a charity that relies on donations money should be engaged in property development and why more of its income is not being spent on blind New Zealanders.
A Weekend Herald investigation has revealed the foundation owns nearly $100m in investment property, much of it in Parnell, one of Auckland's most exclusive suburbs.
Information supplied by CoreLogic shows the properties include:
• Blind Foundation headquarters at 4-6 Maunsell Rd, valued at $20m.
• Parnell Community Centre at 545 Parnell Rd, valued at $13.5m.
• ACG Parnell College at 2 Titoki St, valued at $34m (the foundation says it only owns the land valued at $15m).
• Birthcare Parnell at 20 Titoki St, valued at $21m.
And despite receiving more than $27m last year in donations - about three quarters of its annual revenue - the foundation ran a surplus of more than $7m.
Vision-impaired Hamilton woman Susan Mellsopp uses a guide dog supplied by the Blind Foundation and also accesses talking book services and IT education programmes through the charity.
She was stunned to learn of the foundation's property portfolio and described its $8m Parnell purchase and demolition as "weird".
"In this day and age when money seems to be very short it's very strange for an organisation to be doing that.
"It would surprise me for any NGO to be investing in property. They should be spending money on the people it's given for and the people they're there to support."
The Blind Foundation provides a range of services to thousands of sight-impaired New Zealanders, including library services, guide dogs, braille, education and financial support.
It earned $41m last year. Nearly $6m was spent on fundraising.
About $2m was spent remunerating the then 12-member executive team - about $165,000 each. One person pocketed a salary in excess of $300,000.
The foundation's annual report shows it owns 16 investment properties with a combined value of $98.36m - up $13m on the previous year.
Its extensive property portfolio is managed by Foundation Properties Ltd.
Property records show the company bought a 1920 house and 784sq m section at 537 Parnell Rd in March 2017 for $8m - nearly twice its current CV of $4.35m.
Less than two months later, the company successfully applied for Auckland Council authority to demolish the house.
The property was bulldozed late last year and the site is now used for parking. A sign at the property says parking spaces are available for commercial lease.
A council spokeswoman confirmed it believed necessary consents had not been sought and compliance staff were investigating.
However, foundation spokeswoman Louise von Sierakowski told the Herald the site was not used for commercial parking so no resource consent was needed.
Asked if the $8m purchase was a wise use of the charity's money, von Sierakowski said it would "consolidate ownership of the full block that the Blind Foundation has owned for many years".
The purchase was funded by "investment earnings", not donation money, she said.
The house was removed to provide temporary car parking space while the organisation earthquake strengthened two category 1 heritage buildings in its block.
"Owning the full block makes commercial sense for the future as it adds value and potentially enables us to better maximise use of the wider property, including for ongoing Blind Foundation services and existing tenancies."
Von Sierakowski said the foundation was the country's "primary provider of vision rehabilitation".
Most of its annual income came from "the generosity of New Zealanders through donations". It also looked to maximise rental income from its investment properties.
Most income from the foundation's property portfolio went on support services. A "smaller portion" went back into property assets, she said.
Last year had been a positive one for the charity in terms of income. The surplus would enable the foundation to provide services in future years when income wasn't as good.
Otago University Business School Professor Stephen Knowles said people liked to think their money was helping people.
"People when they're donating to charity like to think the money they're giving is going to people in need."
He added that some charities had moved out of "flash properties" in the city and purchased cheaper premises in South Auckland, enabling more money to be spent on their core charitable activities.
A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman would not comment on individual charities.
They were permitted to raise funds but must do so to promote public benefit.
"Under the Charities Act they must advance exclusively charitable purposes; ensure they provide only public (and not private) benefit; and report annually to Charities Services."