Battle to save heritage
An unlikely weapon is being used to fight a "David and Goliath" battle with Auckland Council - residents' homes.
The Hillpark Residents Association is hosting a house and garden tour this Sunday to raise funds to protect their area's heritage.
Members will use the money to lobby the council for a "special character" overlay for Hillpark in the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.
Special character overlays have been given to areas like Devonport and Helensville but none have been applied to South Auckland suburbs.
Under the old Manukau District Plan, Hillpark is classified as a traditional heritage zone, which aims to "preserve qualities associated with the original pattern of subdivision and layout" of an area.
But that protection will cease when the unitary plan comes into effect in 2016.
Association chairwoman Elizabeth Barrowman says that means Hillpark could lose much of its native trees and vegetation.
"The unique relationship between the native bush and housing that makes Hillpark so special is not even acknowledged," she says.
"Without the trees, without the birdsong, Hillpark would lose its identity."
The association prepared a 54-page submission during the unitary plan's first round of consultation but that was not met with success.
It has just sent off another submission for the second round, which closes tomorrow.
But the association is anticipating a bigger battle and will be hiring a town planner to translate its sentiments into "council speak", member Amy Parlane says.
The process so far has been frustrating and hard to navigate, she says.
"We have people who have masters qualifications, who are educators and professionals, and they don't understand the language."
Tickets for the tour are $25 each and include access to eight different houses.
The oldest, Orford Lodge, was built in 1910 and the newest, Tuckey House, was built in 1988.
Long-time builder Dave Sharples will be opening up his home and says it will be a great chance for members of the community to see firsthand the features Hillpark residents want to preserve.
"Unless you live here, you don't really appreciate it or even know about it for that matter," he says. "We want to protect what we've got because it's priceless and when it's gone, it's gone."
Mayor Len Brown says he's keen to have a discussion about protecting Hillpark's heritage but is not ready to commit to any definite course of action.
The area has a "lovely character" because of its thriving native bush, he says. "I would have my mind open to it without saying, ‘absolutely yes'."
Call Mr Sharples on 267 4339 or drop into Hillpark Primary School, Hillpark Kindergarten or the Hillpark Care Chemist to buy a ticket. The tour runs from 1pm-4pm and includes afternoon tea at Nathan Homestead. No children under the age of 14 years.