Auckland Council has sold its heritage-listed Civic Administration Building to be turned into apartments before resolving strict heritage requirements.
Earlier this month, the council announced it had reached an "agreement" with developer John Love's company Civic Lane Ltd to sell a prime piece of central city real estate, including the landmark skyscraper, for $3 million.
The sale went ahead without Love producing a heritage management plan under the terms of his resource consent and months of talks last year with council regulatory staff that failed to resolve a replacement facade for the CAB.
Mayor Phil Goff and most councillors support the deal, which has been slammed by mayoral contender John Tamihere and senior councillors Mike Lee and Chris Fletcher.
Tamihere has described the sale of the CAB and 5000sq m of neighbouring land off Aotea Square as "incompetence or corruption". He has asked the Serious Fraud Office to investigate. An SFO spokesman said it was considering the complaint.
Mike Lee, who chairs the council's Heritage Advisory Panel, has called it a "fire sale" and fellow councillor Chris Fletcher described the events as "shameful".
Goff said the building was riddled with asbestos and had a Category A heritage listing which made it a very difficult project. The sale meant the building could be restored without burdening ratepayers, he said.
The CAB was designed in the modernist style in the mid-1950s and was the city's tallest building when completed in 1966. The 18-storey building had been criticised as an ugly box, but many people marvelled at its features.
The resource consent decision issued in April 2017 said the amount of visual change to the building would be "very minor" and "all primary features of the building will be retained".
Under the resource consent, Love cannot apply for building consent for demolition/deconstruction work until he has a council-approved heritage construction management plan, which he has yet to get.
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Documents, proactively released by council's development agency Panuku, show that last year Love faced a "major risk" with the heritage requirement terms of the resource consent for a replacement facade for the CAB.
"The developer is in critical discussions with the council's regulatory arm to reach an agreement on a facade treatment that allows the project to proceed," Panuku chief executive Roger McDonald said in January last year.
I don't think it's any great drama
Love was still seeking to address the facade design with council staff in May 2018, the documents showed.
Panuku project development manager Clive Fuhr played down the failure of Love and council to resolve the heritage requirements before the sale, saying the project was a progressive process of getting pre-sales and funding lined up, then investing in the detailed design work.
"I don't think it's any great drama, it's just where we are at this stage...I don't think it's a substantial risk," Fuhr said.
Asked if it would have been prudent of Panuku to resolve the heritage requirements before the sale, Fuhr said: "We are comfortable this is a level of design development that takes place at this stage of the project's life cycle."
In the past week, Heritage New Zealand(HNZ) has written to Love asking for an update on where it is at with the heritage requirements for the CAB.
Northern director Sherry Reynolds said HNZ has an agreement with Love to be involved and provide advice with the detailed design work on the heritage features.
Senior conservation architect Robin Byron said there had been regular meetings between Love's consultants, council representatives and HNZ before and after the resource consent was issued, but HNZ had not been invited to any meetings since August 2017.
The Herald made repeated attempts to contact Love, who answered the phone on one occasion and hung up.
• 2014: Staff start moving out of the former Auckland City Council Civic Administration Building(CAB) to new council headquarters in Albert St.
• September 2016: Tawera Group(John Love) selected from a shortlist of three developers to redevelop the Category A heritage CAB for apartments. Building is expected to start in mid-2017 and take three years. The deal has 5000sq m of land for other buildings, including a hotel and performance space fronting Aotea Square.
• January 2017: More than 100 luxury apartments go on the market with prices starting at $600,000. Love hopes to finalise sale in June or July.
• April 2017: Resource consent granted for CAB redevelopment with strict heritage requirements.
• September 2017: Panuku board extends development agreement by six months to June 2018. This is later extended by a further three months.
• January 2018: Panuku documents show Love faces a "major risk" in relation to the heritage requirements in the resource consent for a replacement facade and in "critical" discussions with council.
• February- May 2018: Discussions continue with council over the design of the proposed replacement facade.
• February 2018 : Advertisement appears in NZ Herald advising prospective buyers that "construction starts April".
• January 2019: Panuku says the project is going well and Love is close to going unconditional after a "slight extension" to deadline.
• June 7, 2019: Council reaches agreement with Love's Civic Lane Ltd to sell the CAB for $3m. Love puts down a deposit of less than $100,000. He will stump the rest of the money when the apartments are built.