A planning snag and premature demolition of buildings housing Birkenhead's library, council centre, advice bureau and Plunket rooms have citizens facing more than two years of using makeshift alternatives scattered around town.

Twice a week, a ratepayer-funded bus shuttles book lovers from the Highbury shopping centre. The bus crosses a busy road and saves them the walk to the public library, now sharing facilities with the local leisure centre.

Plunket rooms and their clean, safe toilets and feeding areas also disappeared in the April clearance.

Highbury Plunket sub branch chairman Jane Sheridan said 500 families in Highbury were deprived of full community services.

Mothers had been expected to travel 5km to the Glenfield Plunket rooms. Those without cars had stopped attending until premises were found in Highbury.

Mrs Sheridan said she was concerned about delays in getting a resource consent for a $6.5 million complex, including Plunket rooms, on its site of 60 years, the Nell Fisher Reserve.

The complex was to have opened next month and she was worried that a "minority" were now challenging whether the new building should be built on the land.

"I feel the heart of Highbury will be ripped out if our library and Plunket rooms are not relocated on the old site," she said.

A circular from Citizens for a Better Birkenhead says "discontent and animosity is rife" in the community over the library plans.

Former Birkenhead City councillor Graham Milne said the demolition presented an opportunity to preserve the only green open space in a jaded commercial area.

Resident Peter White said the more people saw the now-grassed triangular site and its harbour views, the more objections grew to the council rezoning the reserve as a special-purpose, community-use zone.

He is one of 58 submitters who oppose the council changing the district plan so it can build on the site.

Mr White said he originally objected because the glass building proposed clashed with a neighbourhood of heritage homes.

He was shocked by a lack of consultation by a council that seemed determined to rebuild on the site even if it meant using more park land than before.

He said it seemed bizarre to demolish the old building before resource consent approval had been granted, and to now ignore the opportunity to have a park.

However, the council says it has 156 submissions in favour of rezoning.

It chose rezoning after its bid for a resource consent for the complex was embarrassingly turned down in June by three independent planning commissioners - because it did not fit the site's split recreation and business zoning.

Two months earlier, the council had pulled down the old library and removed nearby trees.

"No resource consent - if a private citizen had done it, they would have been hung, drawn and quartered," said Mr Milne, a property consultant.

In 1989 he was the councillor in charge of a future blueprint for Highbury which proposed a new library on a site on the opposite side of Rawene Rd.

The advantages were that it would clear Nell Fisher Reserve and improve safety at the intersection in front of it.

Birkenhead was absorbed into North Shore City, which he said dismissed the proposal despite his obtaining professional reports and giving it a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to buy the site across the road.

Birkenhead-Northcote Community Board chairman Peter Burn said members were divided about whether to investigate alternative sites.

But a public meeting which he chaired had voted 102 -17 for the council to proceed with a plan change.

"The feeling was we have to get on with the library on that site because to go anywhere else is going to cost more money because they have to buy land.

"It's an opportunity lost to have a bigger park but being a realist I don't think the council want to spend any more than they have committed to the project."

Birkenhead library project manager Sharon Cleghorn said the community had been widely consulted. Consultants had looked at all alternative locations and backed the Nell Fisher site.

The plan had been to use temporary premises for up to 18 months but the delay with resource consent meant that would go on for 2 1/2 years.