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One of Auckland's grand old homes is a pile of wood and rubble after the city council rejected a last-ditch bid to save the 90-year-old landmark.

The Coolangatta homestead at 464 Remuera Rd was demolished without warning as shocked neighbours watched.

It is understood the property was bought by a developer and apartments will be built on the site.

Contractors working on the site said the owner was overseas. Attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.

The house, built in 1916, was offered for sale this year by real estate company Barfoot and Thompson, which described it as an "Auckland landmark" designed by one of the city's leading early architects.

Auckland City councillor Christine Caughey said the council discussed protecting the home when it was advertised for sale.

But a push for the council to buy the property and give it a protection order before reselling it was voted down by councillors.

"It was a very emotive debate," she said.

"I think it's a devastating loss for Auckland. There are virtually none of the grand old homes left along Remuera Rd now, it has all gone to high rises."

She believed protection under the city's district plan would have given better protection than a Historic Places Trust listing.

Mayor Dick Hubbard said he voted in favour of preserving the home, though it would have been an "unusual" move, and the costs to the council were "getting close to the upper limit of my degree of comfort".

A report obtained by the Weekend Herald shows councillors at a May 25 meeting voted 11 to six against placing a protection order on the house, then nine to eight against making their vote public. Three councillors were not at the meeting.

The house was in a planning zone which allows for high-density, high-rise development and the site was considered large enough for 12 units.

The council report says the cost of changing the home's zoning would have been about $50,000 and could have climbed to more than $100,000 as the property was "well advanced in a property sale process".

The council could have had to pay up to $2 million in compensation if it had put conservation covenants on the site.

"The $2 million reflects the difference between the value of the 12-unit site and a one-house site, together with some allowance for compensation for the sale process," the report says.

Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker - who voted against saving the building - told the Weekend Herald if the council had bought the property, it would have drawn "heavily at the public's expense".

"The council, in the view of the majority, really had to act in a fiscally responsible way."

Compensation payments to the owners could have been more than the estimated $2 million, Dr Hucker said.

Siblings Peter and Rebecca Macky said their great-grandmother and her husband built Coolangatta in 1916.

It was owned by only two families, the Hay/Foster family who built it, and the Coutts family, which took over in the 1950s.

"When I heard what had happened I was in shock," Ms Macky said.

"It's yet another example in this city of the failure to appreciate, value and protect heritage.

"From our family's point of view it's sad, from Auckland's point of view it's a tragedy."

Their family sold the home to Morton and Margaret Coutts in 1953. Morton Coutts, a founding director of DB Breweries who pioneered brewing processes in New Zealand, died two years ago, aged 100.

Mrs Coutts is understood to be living in the St Vincent retirement home in Remuera. The couple had two daughters, one of whom is married to Bell Gully law partner David Boswell.

Mr Boswell told the Weekend Herald Coolangatta had been sold and the purchaser "expected to develop the property in due course".

In his 1991 book A History of New Zealand Architecture, Peter Shaw described Coolangatta as "one of Auckland's most magnificent houses".

GONE ...
Coolangatta homestead
Built: 1916

Where: 464 Remuera Rd

Rooms: Six bedrooms, formal dining room, four living rooms

Gardens: 2500sq m

Owners: The Hay/Foster family, the Coutts family from 1954

Market value: $4.2 million