Wgtn property developer wins appeal over heritage building demolition decision
May 2 (BusinessDesk) - Wellington property developer Mark Dunajtschik has been granted a rehearing after winning an appeal against an Environment Court ruling preventing him from demolishing a heritage building in need of earthquake strengthening.
In the High Court, Justice David Collins today ruled the Environment Court made two errors of law in turning down Dunajtschik’s application to demolish the Harcourts Building on Wellington’s Lambton Quay.
The judge ruled the Environment Court erred when it said alternatives to demolition were to be exhaustively and convincingly excluded, as that test didn’t meet the Resource Management Act or district plan, and that it didn’t fully weigh the risk to public safety in the event of a moderate earthquake.
Justice Collins allowed Dunajtschik’s appeal for a rehearing, saying the lower court must give consideration to demolition of the building only if it’s convinced there is no reasonable alternative, and must also consider the risk to public safety and surrounding properties if the Harcourts Building remains where it is.
The 86-year-old building was valued at $10 million, and had just 16 people working in it at present, compared to 400 when it was fully tenanted. Before the Canterbury quakes it was valued at $19.5 million, and has since had six of its eight floors vacated.