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HNZ's grand designs on old hotel

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2014
old hotel
Lauren Priestley

WHAT NEXT: An old hotel on Asquith Ave owned by Housing New Zealand is awaiting development.

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The redevelopment of a Housing New Zealand property in Mt Albert has put neighbours on edge.

The Asquith Ave property is part of group of government "special housing areas" up for development.

The 8000 square metre property in Asquith Ave includes old hotel buildings that were purchased by HNZ several decades ago and have been vacant since November.

HNZ plans to redevelop the site despite real estate agents approaching it to sell the land.

Mt Albert Residents Association co-chairman Francis Mortimer says the communication process has been "dicey".

Residents were originally sent a letter from the council stating only 10 units would be built on the site.

The council later said that was a "typo" and 30 to 40 units would go up, Mortimer says. The SHA allows up to 80 units to be built on the site.

"It's a huge difference to what we were originally told.

"There's a lot of concern about the lack of communication with neighbours there.

"We understand there are no plans there yet, but they [HNZ] must have some idea of what could go in there."

Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes says Asquith Ave will be a "test case". Neighbours have concerns about the height of the development, trees on the property, the tenant mix, a path that cuts from Asquith Ave to Burch St and a stone wall that dates back to the 1860s, he says.

"They should by now have decided what sort of tenant mix they'll be looking for. That's the first decision."

Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Dr Cathy Casey says more needs to be done by councillors to secure tenants' rights during any HNZ redevelopment.

A Memorandum of Understanding is being drawn up between the council and HNZ to discuss ways to increase housing stock, provide choice to tenants and enhance community engagement.

The discussions will be between HNZ and the council's chief executive but it should be with a working group of councillors, Casey says.

She wants HNZ to promise more social housing in Auckland and reserve the right for tenants to return to an area if they are moved out because of redevelopment.

"If I had known this was going to happen I wouldn't have agreed to those SHAs. I feel like I've been duped.

"Our SHAs are getting all mixed up with HNZ tenancy reviews. Many tenants are feeling anxious and disempowered. If we don't get HNZ to commit to some bottom lines, we're just adding to the whole situation."

HNZ spokeswoman Bryony Hilless says no designs have been released for the Asquith Ave site. HNZ will try to ensure tenants can return to an area if they want to.

But priority will be given to those who need to access facilities nearby, she says.

SPECIAL HOUSING AREAS

Special housing areas enable HNZ to increase its housing stock and make better use of land.

HNZ has properties in 13 of the latest set of central Auckland special housing areas.

All 13 of the sites became special housing areas at HNZ's request, meaning the company could fast-track development up to six storeys.

But HNZ says there are no firm plans to redevelop most of the sites – yet.

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Go to aucklandcouncil.govt.nz and search "SHA" for more information and maps. 

- Central Leader

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