Published 25 June 2012
The Auckland Council held back last week from recommending that demolition & removal of all pre-1940s houses in the residential 1 & 2 heritage zones be notified, instead working towards a new set of more precise guidelines.
The council will also look at extending heritage protection around the whole region, not just the 2 isthmus zones.
The plan change would have reversed the presumption under plan changes 163 & 192 that applications will be processed on a non-notified basis unless there’s cause to notify, just as proceedings to finalise appeals against those plan changes are nearing their end.
Those new guidelines will come through the unitary plan – the combined district & regional plan being written to implement the broad terms of the council’s new spatial plan (the Auckland Plan). The council has begun work on the unitary plan, which is scheduled for release in December, with consultation to come in early 2013.
The council’s Auckland Plan committee will consider a report on the unitary plan next month which includes heritage matters, to be followed by workshops for clusters of local boards.
The Auckland City Council brought in plan change 163 in its last term, introducing criteria for demolition & removal and for new buildings, but the council didn’t bring public notification of applications to the forefront.
In the new Auckland Council’s first weeks of existence at the end of 2010, it was confronted with a dispute over removal of 3 old houses in St Heliers and it has since had its roles of consent issuer & heritage protector questioned in demolition of old homes in western suburbs.
The new council set up a heritage advisory panel, which found the present rules left pre-1940s houses vulnerable to demolition. The council considered requiring all demolition or removal applications to be notified, but on legal advice the advisory panel stepped back from recommending a plan change.
Instead, the panel recommended the council develop more precise guidelines to identify the special circumstances giving rise t notification, allowed for under the Resource Management Act.
The council’s planning priority at the moment is to shape the unitary plan, which includes aligning zones separately created by all the predecessor councils. The regional development & operations committee decided last Thursday that the unitary plan political working party should investigate how to insert new provisions on heritage & historic character management into that plan.
Meanwhile, staff will have to handle applications in the 2 heritage residential zones using rules deemed inadequate. A report to the committee last week by north-west planning manager Warren Maclennan said there were 11,000 houses in the 2 heritage zones, and 74 applications had been approved between January 2007-February 2012 for full or partial demolition.
34 were in residential 1, 40 in residential 2, and 22 of the decisions were made in plan change 163’s first 2 years, when it had less weight. 7 approvals were for partial demolition, at least 15 buildings were found to have poor structural quality, 31 were significantly modified, 2 approvals were retrospective. The council declined 3 applications but they were granted on appeal to the Environment Court.
Other reasons for approval in that period included being on a rear site and making no contribution to the character of the area, and the new building being found to be in keeping with the surrounding character.
Mr Maclennan said the council initiated an internal review of its processes after criticism for allowing demolition of an old worker’s cottage on Paget St, Freemans Bay, and an application of that type could be dealt with quite differently now.
He said the revised process included:
discussion with the applicant before the application is lodgedapplicants being encouraged to present building plans when they seek consentthe local board being able to express its views before decisions are madea council heritage evaluation, with specific recommendationsdecision scrutiny by senior managementwhere heritage & planning staff differ, further review by senior managersif there’s still no consensus, scrutiny by independent experts, anda hearing where it’s deemed appropriate.
One change that might slow demolition is point the heritage advisory panel wants to consider – that heritage provisions in the unitary plan be given immediate effect on notification.
At the end of last Thursday’s committee debate, Cllr Sandra Coney said that in therm of this council, “I’ve been involved in 12 different issues round demolition, the latest Bethany Hospital in Grey Lynn. It is an issue that’s wider than residential 1 & 2.”
She believed the tension between heritage & intensification was overstated, commenting: “We have to see heritage as a value and unique to Auckland and not a problem. I don’t think we’ve yet grappled with that in terms of the funding that might be available.”
She said the recommendations, which she moved, wouldn’t totally address friction but should lead to more notification, “and the notification doesn’t necessarily lead to saving of the building. The purpose of notification is to flush out more information. A huge amount more was flushed out about that house on Paget St. It’s been my experience when you go through that process and people have been heard there is more acceptance of the outcome.”
13 June 2010: Residential 2 demolition maps out for consultation
16 September 2008: Mayor continues workshops to resolve heritage housing dispute
15 August 2008: Spotlight stays on heritage demolition rules
11 July 2008: Heritage plan change revisions out for consultation
24 August 2007: CBD preservation plan changes approved
19 February 2007: Residential 1 & 2 recommendations back in April-May
4 September 2005: Council moves to stop pre-40s demolition
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Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.