30 May 2012

St Heliers pair say Brisbane offers the heritage protection model Auckland needs

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Written by: Bob Day
Published: The Bob Day Property Report – 30 May 2012

In a presentation to the Auckland Council’s planning & urban design forum yesterday, Alex Dempsey & Sally Hughes of Save Our St Heliers said the council performance on heritage amounted to no more than platitudes.

In the course of researching their paper, Ms Dempsey & Ms Hughes looked at Brisbane, “a city that has worked to deliver planning outcomes that reflect what its people value”.

Brisbane has a similar population to Auckland’s 1.5 million and has also had its array of councils reduced in a super-city rationalisation, but the St Heliers pair said Brisbane “has adopted a framework with many advantages over the one Aucklanders live with.

“We believe it is a better approach, with a more comprehensive rationale & better-targeted rules that would plug the huge gaps Auckland’s built legacy is falling through.

“Its baseline position is a desire to keep the look & feel of Brisbane’s early suburbs, still allowing for in-character new building in them and also more intensive growth centres elsewhere.”

The Auckland City Council created character overlays for commercial centres, but when these were put to the test in St Heliers they very obviously failed to combat the rights of an owner wanting to demolish & redevelop.

Ms Dempsey & Ms Hughes said the main protective mechanisms of Brisbane’s city plan were:

  • Demolition control precincts, covering entire suburbs and patches of pre-1946 housing in other areas; all demolitions require consent and must be publicly notified; replacements must satisfy a residential design-character code
  • Local plans, covering 70 locations, overriding any other part of the city plan they may conflict with; they can also change & raise the conditions of compliance
  • Commercial character building code, applies to pre-1946 shops & other commercial buildings
  • Heritage code – Australia has its own heritage charter, the Burra charter, and Brisbane has over 200 listed sites on its heritage register; the code includes heritage precincts, protecting groups of buildings that might not individually qualify for heritage listing, and a heritage incentive scheme which includes rates relief, grants for maintenance & restoration, awards for owners and grants from a special heritage lottery.

Ms Dempsey & Ms Hughes highlighted 5 points where they said Auckland could change its approach:

  • Zoning – they said blanket zoning was driving the destruction of Auckland’s character & heritage legacy; it allows only one class of property in an area and changes economic conditions, pushing up the potential value of properties in a way that threatens the existence of what’s already there, no matter its other merits
  • Rates evaluation, valuing land & therefore rates on a property’s potential worth if what is there were removed & replaced by something else, puts a huge burden on owners, especially in the older suburbs containing heritage & character building stock; they said spot zoning of particular properties in some areas under development pressure would ease this
  • Recognition, research of enclaves, groups of built features in an area which might not all merit individual protection but need a method collective preservation
  • Demolition/removal onus, the present onus is squarely on the argument for retention to prove a case rather than the reverse; “That needs to shift, as would happen with the establishment of demolition control precincts”
  • Heritage & character evaluation methods, Auckland’s current method involves a quantitative points system, assigning a numerical value to a list of features; “This skews the value by, for example, failing to take into account that one feature of a building may be particularly important or representative yet forms only a small part of overall evaluation – a qualitative evaluation system must replace it”.

Committee chairman Cameron Brewer said after the presentation he was disappointed the Brisbane case study had been brought to the forum’s attention in this way, that the council’s own staff hadn’t raised it.

Brisbane city plan 2000
Burra charter
Save Our St Heliers

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