The decision to refuse planning permission for a large apartment and commercial development on Dominion Rd has been slammed by the local business association.
This type of development is the future of Auckland and without it, projects like modern trams and urban regeneration will not work, says Dominion Rd Business Association manager Gary Holmes.
He was commenting on plans by Auckland's development arm for 102 apartments and nine shops on the corner of Dominion Rd and Valley Rd, which drew opposition from locals and Auckland Council itself.
We desperately need investment and developments of this type along Dominion Rd
The council believed the project was too big and bulky and would erode the character of the area. Part of the plan included demolition of the plastered brick Universal Building on Dominion Rd, built in 1949.
Following public submissions and hearings, planning commissioners refused resource consent, citing the scale, bulk and intensity of the proposed development as the main reasons.
Holmes called the decision short-sighted, saying if similar developments are rejected on arterial routes like Dominion Rd, where light rail - a modern version of trams - are planned, it will not achieve urban regeneration and the critical mass for mass transit to work.
"We desperately need investment and developments of this type along Dominion Rd and Auckland Council is at risk of missing the opportunity to turbocharge its mass transit projects if it gets stuck in the past.
"For years there has been underinvestment along Dominion Rd due to the uncertainty because of transport planning and now when a proposal is put forward that responds to the future vision for the area, it is rejected because of a vocal minority that want to preserve derelict buildings that have outlived their usefulness and should have been demolished years ago", he said.
Holmes agreed "significant" historic buildings need to be protected, but said many of the older buildings along Dominion Rd have earthquake issues and there is little incentive to property owners to spend the huge amounts of money required to bring them up to standard".
Peter Lange, the brother of former Prime Minister David Lange, who has lived within 20m of the site for almost 40 years, said the site was owned by the people of Auckland but earmarked for a gated community for a few privileged citizens.
He told planning commissioners the development needed to reflect the social make-up and architectural heritage of the area with public spaces, planting and retail interest.
Panuku's plans included four apartments blocks, varying between three and five storeys and nine shops.
Its lawyer, Daniel Minhinnick, told commissioners that Panuku considered the development would be a positive addition to Dominion Rd and "achieve the council's strategic goals for intensification along key public transport routes, whilst complementing the special character of the Dominion Rd area".
Minhinnick noted the council's reporting officer's view that the design of the project would result in "unacceptable" adverse effects "flies in the face of the weight of expert evidence".
The evidence painted a "compelling picture" that would result in significant positive benefits for Auckland, he said.
The three commissioners - Janine Bell, Cherie Lane and Richard Blakey - refused the resource consent application from Panuku.
"We consider the demolition of the Universal Buildings would have a significant adverse effect on the special character of this business area ... there was a lack of evidence provided to support the removal of the building," the commissioners said.
In a statement, Panuku said it will review the points raised by the commissioners regarding the design of the development and consider the next steps.
Character Coalition spokeswoman Sally Hughes said Dominion Rd has a lot of quirky character so it is great to see that this "bulky, out-of-place development" has been rejected by the council planners.
"After so many disappointments and losses since the Unitary Plan, heritage fans will applaud the council for saving this much-loved corner of Auckland. This is a great result for Auckland," she said.