Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Heritage Rules a lottery

I have been involved in Heritage issues for many years as it is one of my many passions. And of course there is the economic value of retaining and protecting heritage buildings and neighborhoods.
Who has not visited an old city, taken a heritage walk or been on a double decker bus somewhere and enjoyed and valued the experience?
I feel passionately that there has not been real consultation between the city council and affected residents. The proposed change has the potential to wipe out a significant area of our city heritage. The Spatial Plan for Auckland City will not offer the protection needed nor will it provide the planing needed to ensure we have a most livable city such as we enjoy now.
What has happened is this: there were large areas in Herne Bay, One Tree Hill and Mt Albert that were protected so we had blocks of beautiful houses. Then Mr Banks and his friends leaflet dropped these areas giving the residents the option of protecting their property or not. This was an exercise for individual home owners, not for the good of community at large. Some understood the issue, some did not, some were no doubt overseas and missed it completely. So now, instead of all the houses in Res 2 being protected there can be a street with ten identical houses and only one is protected. You can imagine what happens to house number ten when the other nine are demolished. The owners of house number 10 would also have to bear the huge cost of appealing any decision their neighbours made.
Only houses with a significant street appeal can be protected so if the Sistine Chapel was up a driveway it could be demolished.

Recently a house in Coronation Avenue, Epsom which the council had listed as worthy of protection was demolished because the owner appealed the decision in the Environment Court which found in his favour. All the affected neighbours have had to suffer something which would not happen in Res 1. This would not be allowed to happen in London or Jackson Hole in Wyoming.
I hope stories like this will generate a debate and a process for the development of our city.
Auckland is my adopted home and I'm proud to be an Aucklander

Please read the story below.

Heritage rules 'a lottery'

SCOTT MORGAN - Auckland City Harbour News
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2010

NO TO DEMOLITION: Heritage campaigner Gerry Hill, in Herne Bay, is concerned about rule changes that will allow the demolition of some pre-1940 heritage homes in suburbs around the city.

CRITICISM is being directed at rule changes that protect some of the city's heritage houses from demolition, but not others.
Ponsonby resident Gerry Hill isn't happy with a compromise reached by the Auckland City Council and the Environment Court that proposes only some pre-1940 heritage homes in residential zone two areas would need a resource consent before demolition.
Local areas zoned residential two include Herne Bay, Mt Albert, One Tree Hill and Epsom.
He says the selection criteria that decides which homes are protected are random at best.
"It's a lottery. There's no proper principle in it. It will pit neighbour against neighbour."
Mr Hill is supportive of plan change 163, introduced by the previous council in 2005, which meant all pre-1940 heritage homeowners in residential zones one and two had to apply for resource consent before they could demolish or remove their houses.
But an appeal to the Environment Court meant the council had to compromise, subsequently identifying 2942 homes out of 6773 across the city that require a resource consent before demolition or removal can occur.
Mr Hill, who runs a boutique hotel in Ponsonby, says the decision doesn't take into account that heritage buildings are fantastic tourist attractions, along with improving the visual appeal of Auckland's older streets.
"I take tourists on heritage walks through those areas. They're all old parts of the city people are proud of. They take photos and often they're of the old buildings."
Mr Hill is also concerned not enough has been done to let affected homeowners know what's going on, despite a council letterbox drop to each house and a marketing campaign.
"I believe that they should be doing a proper survey that could be pushed through the media.
"They could have had a series of community meetings."
Mr Hill believes the issue could snowball after the supercity election, with heritage properties in other parts of Auckland likely to be affected.
But mayor John Banks says he's happy with the solution, which has taken many months to work through.
"We've come up with what is an inspired compromise. They haven't been selected by politicians, they've been selected by the very best people to do this work."
While Mr Banks is supportive of the policy, he knows the selection criteria were never going to please everybody.
"It's never an exact science. It was always going to be slightly hit and miss."
Mr Banks says the council has done its best to inform affected parties of what's going on.
The council is seeking public consultation before the Environment Court makes its final decision.
Residents and the public have until July 9 to make submissions on the maps showing affected properties, but not on the selection criteria.
Maps of zone 2 areas can be viewed at www.aucklandcity.govt.nz, at the council's civic administration building in Greys Ave and at all Auckland city libraries.
Blanket protection remains for pre-1940s homes in zone 1 areas like Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Mt Eden, though an appeal against the decision is ongoing.
Mr Hill is doing his own survey on people's understanding of and concerns about the rules. To contact him email grrhll@gmail.com.
He is happy to meet with concerned groups to explain the rules.