Dial 111: Further loss of Heritage in Herne Bay

111 JervoisAs reported in the Herald, the 1912 villa at 111 Jervois Road, Herne Bay, will be demolished on a non-notified basis.

I asked the responsible planner at Council to publicly notify the decision in order to allow interested members of the public to submit on the heritage or character of the building as clear public and media interest was apparent.

Anne Gibson, property editor at the Herald, writes:

Vernon Tava, Waitematā Local Board member, sought information, wanting any demolition application notified so people could make their views known and objections were possible.

He said non-notification was not the right way to proceed.

“This is death by a thousand cuts,” he said of the loss of Herne Bay houses. “We’re seeing the gradual unraveling of Auckland’s inner-city heritage.”

“This is a character-defining building and there is significant public interest in its removal. The local board asks for public notification,” Tava told an Auckland Council planner and his fellow board members.

Whether or not the Local Board agrees with the demolition of the building is not really the issue. We requested notification of this decision. The Local Board is not the final decision maker on either notification or substantive resource consent decisions. I – and many of my constituents – are concerned that valuable heritage is being lost in the city site by site as Auckland goes through one of the building booms that it has every 30 years or so. People should be able to have a say and submit on an application to demolish a character-contributing building in a coherent block in a significant area.

The only heritage protection under the pre-operative Unitary Plan requires that the building be worthy of being scheduled which is an extremely high standard (of the tens of thousands of buildings in my local board area, only 85 are A-listed and 274 are B-listed). A problem with demolition consents is that there is no requirement for the applicant to say what they are building instead.

It’s worth pointing out that this villa is in Herne Bay, on some of New Zealand’s most expensive land. The average house price in this suburb has recently topped $2 million. Whatever is built in its place will not be affordable housing. Even if it was an apartment building, and it probably won’t be, it would be high-priced luxury apartments. More likely, it will house 3-5 of Auckland’s wealthiest people.

I am concerned that a well-intentioned but misguided group of people who argue that there must be no impediments to development in order to bring down the price of housing are seeing the role of locally-elected members as uncritically waving through any and every proposal that is applied for. In asking for notification I’m simply arguing for democratic participation in the consenting process so that the independent commissioners who make the decision can hear balanced submissions. This does not happen with non-notified consents.

In all honesty, I don’t think heritage-intensification is a binary proposition. Intelligent adaptive re-use and judicious preservation can give us the best of both worlds. But first and foremost, there needs to be a fair and democratic process.

 

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About Vernon Tava

Business broker, focused on sustainability, lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
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