Gordon Wilson flats to remain standing as court upholds heritage appeal
The derelict and quake-prone Gordon Wilson flats in Wellington have been saved from the wrecking ball by one of the groups that succeeded in scuppering the Basin Reserve flyover.
The Environment Court has upheld an appeal against removing the heritage building status of the graffiti-covered flats in The Terrace, which have been unoccupied since being hastily evacuated five years ago.
Wellington City Council removed the heritage status in its District Plan last year, and rezoned the building as part of Victoria University. That seemingly paved the way for the university, which previously bought the block from Housing New Zealand, to bulldoze it and create a pedestrian route in its place, between the campus and Ghuznee St.
However, the Architecture Centre, which lodged the appeal, claimed the flats, built in the 1950s, have significant heritage value, and president Christine McCarthy said it was a "hugely important building in New Zealand's architectural history".
* Heritage value of Gordon Wilson flats questioned at Environment Court
* Flats may be demolished
* Quake-prone flats sold to university
* University applies to demolish flats to create campus connection
* Wellington flats demolition confirmed by city council
* Appeal lodged against stripping of heritage status
"It is a rare example of high-rise social housing built under a National government, and was at the leading edge of progressive postwar architecture.
"It is one of only two such buildings in the country and reflects an important part of our social housing history.
"We hope that, with this clear statement about the importance of the building's heritage value, the Gordon Wilson flats will be given the TLC it deserves."
The Environment Court noted the appeal had "provided information that raises the heritage significance architecturally, socially and technically ... rather than diminishing the building's heritage value ... it has in fact strengthened the reasons for it to be listed".
Wellington City Council chief planner David Chick said it was a split decision, with the two environment commissioners being the majority.
"While we are still reviewing the decision. It appears from an initial reading that the reason for their decision turned on a finding that the flats had significant heritage values.
"They didn't make a finding on whether there were alternatives to demolition and suggested this matter is best answered should a future resource consent application be made."
Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle, the council's housing portfolio leader, was disappointed at the decision.
"The council will be looking closely at the ruling to see where we go from here. We'll be talking to the university and working closely with them to progress the next steps."
Victoria University will also study the decision, and director of property services Stephen Costley said no comment would be made at this stage.
The flats were home to 131 Housing NZ tenants when the building was evacuated in 2012 after an engineer's report showed its concrete facade could fall off in an earthquake, or strong wind. It has remained empty since.
Previously Victoria University stated it wanted to become a "great global-civic" university, but to grow in line with other public universities, and the demolition of the flats would help with that development.