Developers target farm buildings

Last updated 00:00 12/09/2007

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A battle to protect a set of old Christchurch farm buildings is looming.

Aidanfield Holdings wants to demolish the century-old buildings at Mount Magdala, near Halswell. The buildings have a group 2 heritage listing in the Christchurch City Plan and thus the developers need a resource consent for demolition.

The city council has notified the consent application and received 10 public submissions – eight opposing and two supporting consent.

The Riccarton-Wigram Community Board last week asked the council to save the buildings. Council planner Suzanne Creighton said a staff report would go to the council for its September meeting. Hearing of the application would be delayed to next month to allow a conservation architect to examine options for use of the buildings.

Heritage advocate and historian John Wilson said the buildings were "the most significant surviving group of farm buildings in the city, with the possible exception of the former Deans farm buildings at Riccarton".

They were "of very high heritage value nationally".

The buildings, dating from the turn of the 20th century, form a courtyard shape in pre-industrial European farmstead style. They include storage sheds, implement bays and a shearing shed, of timber and corrugated iron.

The brick central building is excluded from the application as the developers already held consent for its demolition. Creighton said this consent had since lapsed.

Reports commissioned by the applicants describe the buildings as "rather dilapidated", with parts in poor or dangerous state and the complex lacking potential for use as a public facility. Necessary repair and maintenance work is estimated to cost $220,000.

Aidanfield Developments spokesman Roger Hallinan said ratepayers would be appalled at the prospect of the council spending money on buildings in such bad condition.

The buildings served the farm that provided food for a largely self-sufficient community of troubled women and the Catholic order of nuns that cared for them. The institution opened in 1888.

The buildings are not registered with the Historic Places Trust but it opposes demolition. It wants the application to be put on hold pending assessments of heritage and archaeological value and alternative costing of repairs and maintenance.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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