An Auckland City councillor who voted not to protect a historical Remuera home wanted to keep secret the council's decision because it was "not the public's business".
A copy of the confidential minutes of an Auckland City Council May meeting obtained by the Herald revealed Scott Milne was one of a 9-8 majority that voted against making the decision on Coolangatta public.
"I voted to keep it confidential because it was a commercial decision and not the public's business."
Coolangatta, a 95-year-old homestead at 464 Remuera Rd, was sold soon after the council voted and demolished last week to make way for apartments.
Mr Milne was one of 17 councillors who voted 11-6 against scheduling Coolangatta as a heritage home, despite council officers assessing it as meeting the criteria for protection.
Mr Milne said scheduling Coolangatta Homestead as a heritage home when it was on the market would cost the vendor millions of dollars and was "an abrogation of people's private property rights".
Richard Northey, who voted against protecting the home but in favour of making the vote public, said councillors' votes on heritage matters were "legitimate public interest".
Asked by the Herald, most claimed it was an intrusion of private property rights for the council to place heritage restrictions on a home while it was on the market and could have cost it $2 million in compensation - a price they were unwilling for council to pay.
At the time Coolangatta, zoned in a high-density residential area, was going through the process of sale.
Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker, who voted against protecting the home and against making the vote public, wanted the vote kept secret to prevent "unprincipled political point-scoring".
He said he believed there were valid reasons to withhold heritage status, but others would use the opportunity to claim it was proof the council was not pro-heritage. He said the house was assessed before it went on the market, and did not have enough "points" to classify it as heritage. "Then that changed three times in as many weeks and in the end it reached the necessary number of points to impose heritage classification."
The owners had complained about the process, saying the changing categorisation was jeopardising interest. It was unfair for council to "act arbitrarily" when the property was for sale.
Christine Caughey voted in favour of making the decision public. She said the council had always boasted of being pro-heritage and so transparency of voting records was vital.
Councillors who voted against making the initial votes public said it was an incursion of private property rights, and would be inappropriate for the authority to change the status of a home when its sale was under way.
Noelene Raffills said it was intrusive for the council to consider listing a house as a heritage building when it was on the market". It was better to keep the vote confidential because "we were putting our noses in a process where our noses didn't belong".
Mayor Dick Hubbard also said the public were entitled to know and that "everything should be out in public wherever possible".
Dr John Hinchcliff voted against protecting the home but in favour of making that decision public.
When the Herald asked about his vote, he said "it was a beautiful home and it's too bad it's gone".
Reminded he voted against protecting it, he said the vote was in May and he could not remember the details. "I must have been persuaded by the logic in the camp which was in favour of demolishing it." He believed that councillors' votes should be public.
Coolangatta Homestead was built in 1911 and designed by Noel Bamford. The six-bedroom, double-brick, slate-roofed home was on 2500sq m.
How they voted
The vote to protect the property:
For: Leila Boyle, Christine Caughey, Bill Christian, Glenda Fryer, Faye Storer, Dick Hubbard.
Against: Doug Armstrong, Cathy Casey, John Hinchcliff, Bruce Hucker, Linda Leighton, Toni Millar, Scott Milne, Richard Northey, Noelene Raffills, Penny Sefuiva, Vern Walsh.
The vote to make the first vote public after the property was sold:
For: Leila Boyle, Christine Caughey, Glenda Fryer, John Hinchcliff, Richard Northey, Penny Sefuiva, Faye Storer, Dick Hubbard.
Against: Doug Armstrong, Cathy Casey, Bill Christian, Bruce Hucker, Linda Leighton, Toni Millar, Scott Milne, Noelene Raffills, Vern Walsh.
POLITICS BEHIND STAFF U-TURN, SAYS HUCKER
Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker claims Auckland City Council officers succumbed to political pressure in deciding the Coolangatta homestead merited heritage protection.
He said the officers did an about-turn on the house on Remuera Rd after it went on the market, giving it enough "points" to push it on to the schedule of protected heritage homes.
In a closed council meeting in May, Dr Hucker voted against protecting the house, claiming it was unfair to impose heritage restrictions while the property was being sold. The house has since been demolished.
Dr Hucker told the Herald one reason for his vote was that the process for judging its heritage value was "inadequate" and the assessments kept changing.
He said it was assessed by council officers before it went on the market and fell short of the threshold required for heritage protection.
"After it went on the market, the points changed three times in as many weeks, and it only just made it over the threshold needed to impose a heritage classification in the end."
Dr Hucker said he believed the council officers were subject to political pressure.
"After questioning the officers in that meeting about why the process was sped up when the house was on the market, I'm not convinced that an abuse of power had not occurred. I think there was undue political interference with the process."
He said the owners had complained about the constantly changing assessments and it was unfair for the council to "act arbitrarily" when the property was selling.
"It was too late to intervene without seriously jeopardising interests in the property."
Dr Hucker was at loggerheads with Mayor Dick Hubbard, who supported protecting the house.
- Additional reporting Martin Johnston and Anne Beston