Fight to save historic house

ROB KIDD
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012

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Two East Auckland residents have vowed to fight on in their bid to save a 114-year-old building despite it being all but destroyed by fire.

Firefighters were called to a blaze at the Guy homestead in Huntington Park, Ti Rakau Dr, on Saturday night. Five crews took almost an hour to control the blaze.

The homestead, formerly part of a 210-acre farm, was covered in graffiti and had been damaged on the inside after it became popular with homeless people.

The fire is being treated as arson and police are investigating sightings of people seen running from the area.

The fire came just as momentum was growing to save the building from falling into further ruin.

Nick Neben had been fighting for six months to have council board up or fence off the house to protect it and in the last couple of weeks got Chris Tate on board.

Tate, the director of an architectural company, proposed the building should be relocated away from Auckland to a "beautiful farm property".

"Development's crept up around it and it's lost its context," he said.

Despite the building's newly blackened state, Tate was confident at least part of it could still be salvaged as long as they could find someone skilled enough to shift it.

"I'm not sure if it could be moved without it falling to pieces. The back part has had it and needs to be removed but the front's intact."

Neben said the former Manukau District Council bought the land and property in 1980 and developed the surrounding area while placing restrictions to protect the future of the homestead.

More recently it was sold to Hong Kong investors, who he said "bought themselves a bit of a lemon".

Neben was "pretty pissed off" with how the historic building had been abandoned; a sentiment echoed by Tate.

"It's such a shame. We don't have much heritage in this country, you'd think it'd be safeguarded," he said.

Auckland Council's manager of heritage Noel Reardon said the council's District Plan identified the Guy homestead as historically significant and worthy of protection but it had been privately owned for more than a decade, so the council had only limited powers to protect it.

Reardon said council staff had visited the property two weeks ago and did not deem it unsafe; therefore there was no provision to erect fencing.

Mayor Len Brown said it was "always disappointing when we lose part of our built heritage, particularly a property the local community is fond of.

"It's obviously an area of Auckland I know well and the news of its fate is clearly upsetting for people concerned about protecting heritage in Howick."

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- Auckland Now

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