Plans by Southern Cross to knock down or remove several houses to expand its private hospital in Auckland's Epsom is attracting fierce opposition from locals.
The private hospital network has lodged a plan change through Auckland Council to rezone the sites of three homes on Gillies Ave and one home on Brightside Rd for hospital purposes.
Two of the houses on Gillies Ave were built before 1940 and have special character status.
Under the hospital zone that they want, they could build as high as 25m with very limited ability by the council to control what happens
Local councillor Chris Fletcher said she could not believe the arrogance of Southern Cross for seeking to rezone the land following hard-fought battles over zoning during the Unitary Plan.
Three public meetings at a village church in Mt Eden to oppose the hospital expansion have attracted about 100 people each time.
The meetings have been organised by the Eden-Epsom Residential Protection Society, formed to preserve the integrity of the Unitary Plan and its residential provisions for the Mt Eden-Epsom area.
Southern Cross Hospitals chief of property and development Courtney Bennett said work on expanding Brightside Hospital has been planned for some time.
"The expansion aims to help meet the growing need for comprehensive healthcare services in Auckland, where there are severe capacity constraints in both public and private hospitals," he said.
Bennett said the hospital provides a range of services for procedures such as knee and hip replacements to mostly Aucklanders and the expansion will help to alleviate the growing pressure on Auckland's hospitals.
He said Southern Cross consulted extensively with neighbours and council before seeking to change the zoning to "Special Purpose - Healthcare Facility and Hospital Zoning" - "the most appropriate classification for the use of the site".
"We have worked to minimise disruption to neighbouring properties, including designing the building in such a way as to preserve historic trees and rock walls on the site and to keep any additional traffic away from the quieter residential streets and on the main thoroughfare of Gillies Ave," Bennett said.
Fletcher said the scale of the new hospital - "a huge monstrosity" - was a big worry, as were plans for blasting basalt rock. When Southern Cross expanded the hospital in the late 1990s, blasting caused "absolute mayhem", she said.
"This is going to be a long build, highly disruptive, and not just to residents in the community. It is on a major arterial (Gillies Ave) and you are going to have immense disruption when you think of the number of schools in the vicinity.
"I don't doubt there is a need for more hospital beds, but this is not the place to do it," she said.
Fletcher and a local medical professional also believe the community is part of a "trade war" between Southern Cross and MercyAscots' private hospitals in Epsom.
A spokesman for the Eden-Epsom Residential Protection Society, who did not want to be named, said the proposal would triple the capacity of the current hospital and could be built to at least 15m, virtually double the height limit in the current residential zone.
"Under the hospital zone that they want, they could build as high as 25m with very limited ability by the council to control what happens." said the spokesman.
He said the society was concerned with the precedent the plan change would have throughout the Eden-Albert residential zoned land.
"We are not opposed to hospitals per se and part of our case is there are suitably zoned areas of the city laid down under the Unitary Plan which could accommodate this activity," the spokesman said.
Submissions on the private plan change close on April 18.