A 117-year-old church hall being hocked off to potential developers in Parnell faces demolition after Auckland Council removed it from the heritage schedule without consultation following an error by town planners.
Locals are furious after learning the building could be torn down, but the council says it never had protection and the change in classification was simply to tidy up a clerical error.
The historical Gothic-inspired building sits beside the Knox Church in Birdwood Cres on a large 1900sq m site worth more than $12 million.
Heritage expert and Waitemata Local Board member Allan Matson says the hall has significant architectural value and association with people and the community.
It was previously listed under the Unitary Plan’s schedule of historic heritage, which is notified to the public and offers protection to celebrated heritage buildings across city. For that reason, locals had no idea it was at risk.
Matson believes it should never have been removed from the schedule and wants the council to urgently review its decision before the building is sold by the Presbyterian Church and lost forever.
The Herald understands the Knox Church congregation has dwindled in recent years and that the hall, which was once used regularly for community functions, has fallen into disrepair.
A Bayley’s listing says that after long-term ownership, the Knox Church property is now “surplus to the vendor’s requirements”.
It offers “a range of opportunities” to purchasers, including redeveloping the site or repurposing the existing buildings and land.
While the pre-1900 wooden Knox Church building is protected under the Unitary Plan, a code compliance certificate has been issued to demolish the 1906 brick church hall.
Auckland Council heritage unit manager Noel Reardon said the 1898 Knox Church was scheduled for heritage protection in the legacy Auckland City District Plan.
The 1906 hall was also evaluated by the legacy council in 1994, but found to be of inadequate heritage value to justify its protection, Reardon said.
However, the hall was subsequently listed in the heritage schedule “in error” in the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan in 2013, which should only have listed the Knox Church.
The council’s heritage unit had reviewed the schedule of historic heritage since the Unitary Plan became operative “to identify and correct errors and anomalies and update information”.
This resulted in amendments in 2017 and 2022, removing the hall from the heritage schedule.
Reardon stressed that, although the hall had been named in the schedule, it was never protected under the Unitary Plan as it did not appear in heritage overlay maps which identify protected heritage buildings.
However, Matson said the changes were never consulted on and believed they should have been handled through a publicly notified plan change process.
Local residents and heritage protection groups were led to believe the old hall was protected and were never given the chance to protest its removal or argue for its preservation.
Parnell had already lost many heritage buildings, which Matson described as “death by a thousand cuts”.
He called on the council to urgently review its decision in light of the sale process and likelihood the site would be bought by developers and the hall demolished.
“I think they should look at it again. It was notified for protection so how did this happen? If it’s heritage it’s heritage.”
If the council refused to review the case, the decision could be open to judicial review, Matson believed.
A Bayley’s agent confirmed there was a certificate to demolish the hall.
He said tenders had closed this week and “offers received are currently sitting with the vendor”.
A church spokesman said the property was surplus to requirements.
He confirmed the church was protected under the Unitary Plan but the hall was included “in error” which the council had now corrected.
“Questions regarding the Auckland Unitary Plan – and the management of that and any notification of changes - is a matter for the council and those questions should be addressed to them.”