Auckland Unitary Plan August 2016 – Risk to Remuera Historic Heritage

The eastern suburbs have seen significant removal of the single house zone to be replaced with the increased density of the Mixed House Suburban or Urban zones.

This will lead to the development of individual properties being intensified to 3 stories, alongside single houses, destroying the collective value and amenity of the area which the community has strived to protect for future enjoyment. Urban amenity has to be collective – individual owners cannot do both high density and still expect to retain the existing character and amenity.

The Independent Hearing Panel wrote “there was an insufficient basis to restrict the demolition of buildings based solely on their age. The argument that the unitary plan should, on an alleged precautionary basis, manage the demolition of buildings in areas that may have ‘unidentified significant historic heritage places or unidentified ‘special’ character areas’ was not supported by evidence of the likelihood that such values would be identified, or that the rate of demolition required such a restriction”.

During the Unitary Plan process, Auckland Council said it was not resourced to carry out character area surveys to identify significant historic heritage places or unidentified ‘special’ character areas’ but would cooperate with community groups to do this. Remuera Heritage offered its help to the Heritage Dept. and through Councillor Cameron Brewer but we never heard back. Council staff had countered to the IHP that a plan change to add or extend character areas should be ready for notification in early 2017. RH gave evidence of the removal of character buildings from Remuera South, parts of Remuera north and Newmarket to no avail.

As a result, The Panel has kept most of the currently notified special character overlay over Auckland, with one notable exception – it has been almost erased throughout all the eastern bays, including Remuera, Orakei, Kohimarama, Mission Bay and St Heliers. The pre-1944 demolition control overlay has been removed in its entirety and there is now no protection for any identified or non-identified character buildings in Auckland. The pre-1944 overlay was only an interim measure to allow for the identification of character housing, so now demolition is a permitted activity.

AT RISK: The Remuera Library which is a listed and protected heritage building has now been zoned as being part of the town business centre and buildings either side have been upzoned to THAB (Terrace Houses and Apartment Buildings). This includes Cotter House, another listed heritage building (the 5th oldest house in Auckland) and the Hearing Association house at the top of St Vincent Avenue. This zoning change does not help the protection of these historic heritage places. It is impossible to understand why there is such a lack of consistency here in having Category A status for a brick public building such as a library and a historic heritage house when the underlying zoning anticipates high density. Houses such as Cotter House are now at significant risk of demolition and redevelopment.

Gains in Remuera have been the inclusion of the Extent of Place around the Chapel of the Holy Child (formerly the stables) at Kings School to include The Towers, the 1855 Graham/ McCosh Clark house. The Remuera Railway Station has been upgraded from Category B to A: “Given its integrity, it’s now rarity, having an integral and original relationship with its signal box, and being the best of Auckland‘s historic suburban stations, it warrants elevation from a B to A in its heritage categorisation. Accordingly, the Panel supports the scheduling of the ‘Remuera Railway Station and Signal Box’ as Category A and adopts the extent of place and description proposed by Heritage New Zealand.”

The volcanic viewshafts fared better than heritage. Most (though not all) proposed viewshafts have been retained; a few have been deleted, and there is a new category of locally significant viewshafts. One of the differences between regional and local is that if a proposed building would penetrate a regional viewshaft it is a non-complying activity, whereas for a local viewshaft it is a Restricted Discretionary activity. The Panel has provided the Council with maps which represent its recommendations.

To view what these recommendations may mean for Remuera and your own property, click here and here.