Remuera Heritage 2023 Annual Report

Remuera Heritage

Nau mai haere mai, tena koutou katoa; welcome to members, Troy Churton, Margaret Voyce and Penny Tucker of the Orakei Local Board and friends of the society.

The last 12 months have been consumed by planning matters with Auckland Council. Both the Labour and National parties adopted the National Policy Statement on Urban Development and Housing Intensification to increase housing availability in New Zealand’s major cities. Auckland Council then introduced Plan Change 78 which looked to upzone i.e., intensify, most of Auckland for housing development. PC78 allowed both for the upzoning and for the removal of the Special Character Area Residential Overlay from Auckland’s central suburbs, including Remuera:

  • 3 storey houses and extensions can be built on your property and that of your neighbour
  • Three houses can be built on one site as of right, and sites can be subdivided to allow each new lot to have three houses = the 3×3 scenario.
  • Each of these houses may be built up to 12 metres high (compared with the current rule limit of 9 metres)
  • Building will be allowed up to only 1 metre from side and rear residential boundaries, and 1.5 metres from the front boundary
  • A height–to–boundary requirement of 4 metres high then increasing on a 60 degree plane (compared with the current rules requiring 3 metres and 45 degrees)
  • Minimal design requirements
  • Site coverage will be increased to 50% maximum
  • There will be a landscaping minimum of only 20%, and this can include a canopy of trees even if the land is paved beneath
  • No resource consent will be required for any of this.

An Independent Hearing Panel was set up by Auckland Council to process the Plan Change.

After the extreme weather events of 2023, Auckland Anniversary Weekend and Cyclone Gabrielle, and their impacts on Auckland properties, including Remuera, the Panel has been asked to take these into account in relation to its planning considerations. The government has agreed to a ‘Pause’ for one year while this is worked through. This is good news but at the same time, the pause does allow for current development provisions to still happen.

Remuera Heritage submitted against the removal of the Special Character Area Overlay in Remuera and against the intensification of development in inappropriate areas e.g. on the side of Ohinerau Mt Hobson, along Remuera Road, and near coastal erosion and flooding areas. We also looked at sites that were not visible from the road, down a right-of-way where large estates were subdivided many years ago.  Remuera is built on the northern and southern slopes of Ohinerau Mt Hobson – planning has not taken into account the flow of stormwater and wastewater, and landslips which have happened over many years, e.g. most disastrously on Shore Road where residents have expressed their concerns to council  about slips for 50 years.

Remuera Heritage supports the Character Coalition in its efforts to employ experts in planning, heritage and legal matters. The Chair did identify areas of concern in Remuera, but Remuera Heritage has now engaged Graeme Burgess, of Burgess and Treep heritage architects, to work through a site-by-site analysis of Remuera. They are focusing on Market Road/Pere Street on the side of Ohinerau Mt Hobson, Remuera Road opposite Ohinerau Mt Hobson, and Garden Road, amongst others.

They have met with Auckland Council and it is clear that PC78 was driven by a planning perspective, not by a heritage or special character approach. Burgess and Treep are using work done by the late Jeremy Salmond under Plan Change 163 in 2005-2008 who did a site-by-site analysis of Remuera. The Auckland Unitary Plan also allows for the development of nearly one million houses in Auckland over the next 20 years.

The planning scene has become very complex and it’s now a matter for the experts in planning, heritage, and law. The political context is very complex. I propose that Remuera Heritage uses its funds to support the Character Coalition at a strategic level to achieve results at a planning and legal level. I think we should focus on having advice from Burgess and Treep for site specific analysis in Remuera. Remuera Heritage has put much effort into identifying properties at threat in Remuera, and I’m grateful to Rebecca Washer for focusing on this. Remuera Heritage has an ongoing programme to identify notable houses in Remuera.

I’d like to note that two Remuera residents’ groups have taken the initiative to engage with neighbours to submit against the upzoning and have been successful. The Seaview Road Residents Group, led by Christine Caughey and the Remuera Road East Residents Group, led by Mark Andrews and Al Stokes, have engaged with their neighbours and founded a community street group to submit against their rezoning under PC78. I support them in this huge effort.

So, we are on a ‘Pause’ for one year but latest talks with Auckland Council indicate that the door is still open around site specific analysis. So, let’s not give up and my message is get together with your neighbours about your concerns regarding development and special character and heritage – if you need support, let us know. Also, a special thanks to Troy Churton on the Orakei Local Board for all his hard work in this area.

 Events in 2022/23

We had a great number of events in 2022/23. These included:

  • Vivienne Wilson on the Glen houses in east Auckland
  • Dr Bruce Hayward on the geology origins of Ohinerau Mt Hobson
  • A visit to the Ngati Whatua māra kai gardens at Pourewa on Kepa Road
  • Xmas party at the old Remuera Post Office, thanks to Sotheby’s Remuera and Lesley McLellan
  • The location of the Great Māori Feast with Dr Jeremy Braund, Bruce Hayward and Tony Batistich
  • Plan Change 78 and its effects on Remuera, with Troy Churton
  • Meeting with Parnell Heritage at the Parnell Returned Services Club to celebrate our Remuera people who served in WW1 and WW2.

Future events

On Sunday June 11th, we have been invited by owner Tom Bowden to visit Cotter House, 2 St Vincent Ave, to see the changes that have been made to the house and garden.

In July, Allan Davidson will talk about his book “In this place, From this place: St Luke’s Presbyterian Church, Remuera – Newmarket 1875-2022”.

We are still hoping to have a visit to Tiroti 20 Orakei Rd and host a talk by Boris Bogdanovic, Conservation Adviser at Heritage New Zealand on his career and work.

The Auckland Heritage Festival is on again in September/October 2023 with the theme of Love, Peace and Protest. We are looking at creating short walks around Remuera that identify heritage listed homes, demolished buildings, notable trees, natural and cultural heritage.

Heritage properties

‘Remuera’s Century-Old Homes’ campaign to capture and share the stories of some of Remuera’s many historic homes continues.  We have identified residences and buildings that have a special place in our built heritage, where the house and/or its people have made a meaningful contribution to the story of Remuera, Auckland and in some cases New Zealand. Stories completed include those on architects Lillian Chrystall and Henry Kulka, and houses Binswood and Capri on Remuera Road, 37 Bell Road, and 488 Remuera Road which was the site of the Remuera Hall and Chapel from the 1860s.

It was also good to see Valerie Muir’s arts and craft house in Otahuri Crescent listed on Heritage New Zealand’s List and a plaque installed and unveiled on the wall by HNZ.

Publishing – print and digital

Sales of the Great Feast at Remuera booklet continue and have generated interesting conversations about the actual location of the feast. We think we have established where it happened and would like to have another event around this to hear what you think. And we’re still selling our copies – please buy one – it’s a bargain!

We have published a history of Ladies College researched and written by Joanna Boileau who has produced a great insight into the private girls’ school on Portland Rd and Garden Rd. Its most famous pupil was Jean Batten – more of her later in the pictorial presentation.

 Management Committee

Finally, I would like to thank the wonderful committee for their commitment and company:  Stuart Hayman, our secretary, Gavan Jackson, treasurer, Bryan Haggitt, Jenny Scott, Brian Cooper, Rebecca Washer, Sue Johnston & Sue Jackson of Remuera Library, who provide us with this wonderful venue.

I’m giving one year’s notice of standing down as Chair – I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I need to take a break. A Co-Chair would be good too.

We desperately need some new members on our committee – the society is at a stage in its development where we need some more committee members. We want to maintain our focus on protecting our Remuera heritage and our informative and social programme of events. I hope you will consider getting involved. We really do need your help.

Sue Cooper, Chair

18 May 2023