Heritage buildings in firing line

WORTH SAVING: Brooklyn body corporate chairman Chris Hart says the building is an architectural gem.
WORTH SAVING: Brooklyn body corporate chairman Chris Hart says the building is an architectural gem.

Some of Auckland's most elegant heritage buildings are under attack after thousands of applications to cut protective measures from council planning laws.

Housing New Zealand made more than 10,000 points in its submission to the proposed unitary plan to delete heritage, height and viewshaft restrictions from its Auckland properties.

And heritage buffs fear resulting developments could destroy the character of the inner city.

REAL TREASURE: The art deco Brooklyn building on Emily Place was built in 1929.
REAL TREASURE: The art deco Brooklyn building on Emily Place was built in 1929.

One building in question is the Brooklyn building on Emily Place, built in 1929 and registered with Heritage New Zealand as a category 2 historic place.

Housing New Zealand only owns one unit in the 49-apartment art deco building but wants the heritage conditions, which restrict development or demolition, removed from the lot.

It is "spectacularly un-neighbourly", Brooklyn body corporate chairman Chris Hart says.

"It seems they [Housing New Zealand] are using a cannon type of approach when what they really need is a sniper approach. They've made a huge number of submissions attacking many things that people in the Auckland city area feel make it a worthwhile place.

"We are in one of the oldest parts of Auckland."

Hart has owned his Brooklyn apartment for more than 25 years and says it is worth preserving.

Apartment owners in the building have spent a lot of money to maintain its heritage status, he says, and Housing New Zealand needs to rethink its viewpoint and back off its "aggressive stance".

"I think their aims are good in wanting to house as many people as possible but they've gone about it wrong.

"To say ‘we want to pull down all the heritage buildings', shows a lack of social responsibility or misguided social responsibility at the least."

Waitemata Local Board member Vernon Tava says the central city and fringe areas have been hit hard by the Housing New Zealand submissions.

The board's patch includes most of Auckland's heritage homes and the world's largest collection of Victorian wooden houses, he says.

The board supports the need to intensify but it is important not to throw away the city's heritage in the process, Tava says.

"We are seeing an assault on heritage from all sides at the moment.

"We're not trying to preserve everything, we're not trying to freeze time, but wiping out the past and starting again is an irresponsible approach.

"There's no reason we can't have both."

Auckland central-based Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern says the number of Housing New Zealand submissions is worrying.

Many of the residents in affected buildings were not even aware of the bid to remove restrictions, she says.

"The area for a long time has been battling to ensure we have the right protections in place for character buildings. For Housing New Zealand to pepper-pot around the community and say ‘these rules don't apply to us' just doesn't seem right."

A Housing New Zealand spokesman says the submissions are designed to advocate for a "more nimble" planning framework.

The idea is not to strip Auckland of its cultural identity but to encourage a plan that enables innovative design and architecture that builds on Auckland's history, he says.

The company owns at least 2100 properties that were built before 1944 which are protected from demolition or subdivision.

Housing New Zealand has no specific plans for the Brooklyn building, he says.

"Housing New Zealand has not made its submission seeking to remove overlays from properties for the purpose of selling them," the spokesman says.

"Our overall approach to managing our properties supports our priority of providing the right properties, of the right size in the right places to meet demand."

Go to aucklandcouncil.govt.nz and search "Unitary Plan" to view submissions.

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