Soon after becoming mayor, Dick Hubbard said: "The heritage policies I found at council have been unsatisfactory. The new council is already taking action, putting greater emphasis on heritage protection. We will be reviewing and developing heritage protection under the District Plan and developing heritage protection policies."
After the demolition of Coolangatta on Remuera Rd, the public may ask whether much has changed.
The loss of heritage continues, and from my perspective, having tried to encourage a fiercely stubborn council to face its heritage responsibilities over the past few years, I'm convinced it hasn't.
Proper processes for recognition and protection of heritage do exist - so what is the council's problem? Why are things in a state of crisis?
Put simply, a chain is as strong as its weakest link, and there are some fundamentally weak links in the council's application of the process.
The problem is threefold.
First there is the council's failure to assess buildings.
Many heritage buildings have never been assessed, so when building owners seek planning permission the council claims to be powerless to control development and to take into account heritage significance.
Owners are legally required to provide an Assessment of Effects on the Environment (AEE), and this includes any effect on social and cultural amenity. These have been deficient or absent, and the council has been turning a blind eye for years.
Second, once assessed, heritage scores have been artificially manipulated - and deputy mayor Bruce Hucker's suggestion that council officers succumbed to political pressure in determining the heritage score for Coolangatta supports my contention.
George Farrant, manager of the council's well-meaning and under-funded heritage team, doggedly maintains his mantra that the process for recognising and protecting heritage is "transparent, robust and defensible", but that is simply wishful thinking.
The council, which initially identified valuable features of the interior of the Jean Batten State Building and then claimed to have never actually sighted its interior, has shown economy with the truth.
The building is being gutted for 15 car parks and the magnificent interior has been lost to Auckland forever. Recently, after a tortuous series of official information requests, the council admitted it ignored its legal duty to protect the building.
The third problem is that when the council does acknowledge that a building warrants protection, sometimes it simply ignores its duty to do anything about it. Part of the collection of Yates Buildings in the CBD is a case in point. It is 15 points over the 50-point threshold for heritage scheduling and nothing is going to be done.
Councillor Scott Milne's suggestion that the demolition of Coolangatta is "a commercial decision and none of the public's business" is revealing.
This is inconsistent with the council's obligation under the District Plan to "systematically recognise and protect heritage", and its obligation under the Resource Management Act to "recognise and provide for the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development as a matter of national importance".
The decision not to protect Coolangatta was based on the incorrect assertion that the council would have to purchase the building.
This is untrue and the council's City Planning Manager John Duthie confirmed to the council's Planning Fixtures Committee last April that a Heritage Order did not oblige the council to buy a property or compensate an owner - it simply obliged the owner to demonstrate that reasonable use could not be made of the site.
One past Christmas Eve it was His Majesty's Arcade, and the march of destruction has continued - buildings not properly assessed, scores manipulated, heritage values unlawfully ignored and history lost.
And what is the latest in this litany of losses? The former Britannia Theatre in Ponsonby, built around the turn of last century, with its magnificent interior and unparalleled views over the city, is now under threat.
Based on the council's incorrect assessment that the building interior has no heritage value, the effect was deemed to be minor and non-notified consent was granted.
John Childs, former City Planning Manager, now acting as planning consultant for the owner, failed to include in his AEE, as required by law, any assessment of effects on cultural amenity.
Once a state-of-the-art picture theatre, the building has for the past 24 years been home to the Alhambra Restaurant and Bar, where the Gluepot customers went after their landmark pub was closed.
The Alhambra is widely regarded as an institution; one of the few live music venues for people from all over Auckland.
It is to close and half the building's interior will be converted to storage and offices. No consideration has been given to alternatives which might preserve this venue for the community for now and future generations.
Sandra Coney, speaking on behalf of the Auckland Regional Council, has questioned the wisdom of destroying this cultural asset without due process.
Judith Tizard, Minister for Auckland Issues, who has her office in the building, espoused her vision of a city that is "liveable, supports social well-being and provides a great quality of life for all."
The council and the building owner should pause a moment and consider how this might be achieved.
Replacing vibrancy and culture with storage and offices is certainly not the answer.
I wonder how long this unlawful, amoral and seemingly unaccountable stupidity will continue.
* Allan Matson is a heritage consultant.