Three of Auckland's mayoral candidates favour protecting homes with heritage values and two are having a "bob each way", says the Character Coalition.
With Auckland councillors voting on Thursday on a contentious proposal to rezone nearly one in four of 21,000 homes in "special character areas" for high-density housing, the Character Coalition has sought the views of the main mayoral candidates.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck, businessman Wayne Brown and freelance media operator Craig Lord have come out strongly in support of retaining special character status - Auckland Council jargon for the city's collection of wooden villas and bungalows with heritage value.
Sally Hughes, who heads the coalition of 60 heritage and community groups, is heartened by different levels of support from all five leading candidates for special character areas.
"While some are trying to straddle the intensification versus character and heritage debate, perhaps have a 'bob each way', all are acknowledging the vital importance of Auckland's special character areas," she said.
This was a reference to Manukau councillor Efeso Collins and restaurateur Leo Molloy, who voiced support for intensification.
"Auckland's special character areas are part of the fabric that make up and in fact define our beautiful city. Protecting their aesthetic must be a priority. However, we do need to intensify and I acknowledge that certain areas of the inner city are suitable for this purpose," said Molloy.
If elected Mayor of Auckland on October 12, Molloy said he will explore options that will make Auckland more liveable and affordable without losing part of the city's identity and history."
Collins told the Herald his position leans towards the position of the Coalition for More Homes, which wants more homes in city fringe suburbs like Grey Lynn and Ponsonby.
He believes that Auckland's historic character needs to be preserved and valued but needs "a sharper focus on what part of our history is worth preserving so we don't use preservation as a tool to lock people out of the housing market in some of our most desirable established suburbs".
Craig Lord said "Auckland needs to be extremely diligent in its protection of
history – special character homes are part of this."
Wayne Brown said that not only does he support protection of heritage and character areas but he also owns a listed building - his last house was a Grey Lynn villa, and he has been involved in the preservation of the Kemp House and the Stone Store at Kerikeri.
Viv Beck said that "the proposed changes will have a major detrimental impact on the character and identity of our city and once this has gone, it cannot be reinstated". She undertook, "if elected, to lead discussions with the Government to change these plans".
The culture war over Auckland's urban identity between new housing rules designed to drive intensification and the city's special character areas will be debated at the council's planning committee on Thursday.
Councillors will vote on whether more or less of the special character areas, already defined in the Unitary Plan, will be kept.
The Government, with bi-partisan support, has legislated for intensified development across Auckland, unless Council defines areas, such as special character Areas, as being qualifying matters.
Oscar Sims, a spokesman for the Coalition for More Homes, said it wants to expand areas around town centres, the city centre, and rapid transit to encompass wider walkable catchments that will enable more intensification.
"We're not opposed to some special character areas, but these need to be on a much more granular basis: currently 41 per cent of land within 5km of the city centre is protected by special character protections, as is 94 per cent of Grey Lynn central and 91 per cent in East Ponsonby."
The coalition opposes the blanket special character areas of the scale that the council is proposing.
"We believe that the identity of Auckland is in its people and the vibrant multicultural community of this city. Visitors to this city come here for our beautiful natural landscapes, delicious food, and friendly people. By pricing out future generations, these things are at risk.
"It is disappointing to see many of the candidates for the next mayor of Auckland effectively prioritising some weatherboard bungalows over these things that make Auckland great," Sims said.