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Options before heritage takes a hit

12 November 2008


Options before heritage takes a hit

Public concern at the loss of a number of central Dunedin heritage buildings has prompted the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) to urge owners and local councils to consider other options instead of a wrecking ball.

NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Manager, Owen Graham said his office has received a number of calls from the community expressing concern that development proposals in the central city are destroying Dunedin’s heritage character. The latest proposals are in the lower High Street area and in Princes Street south of the Exchange where at least three separate proposals are seeking to demolish heritage buildings.

In each case car parking will be provided as part of those developments.

Mr Graham said there are options available to owners and developers to enhance the viability of heritage buildings to better fit the streetscape. With increasing economic uncertainty, re-use and re-development options could be more favourable than demolition.

“There are some fine recent examples of the re-use and re-development of heritage buildings in Dunedin,” Mr Graham said.

“Two of the oldest inner-city buildings in Dunedin are located in St Andrew Street. Advertised for sale for demolition, these buildings have had a makeover ready for use as a new café/bar venue. Also, the owner of the Bracken Court building in Moray Place, ravaged by fire in 2006, has carried out a complete redevelopment and it is now a modern and versatile building full of offices and retail.

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“It shows what can be done with owners that have vision and empathy to buildings that are a key part of our history.”

Mr Graham said while NZHPT is New Zealand’s leading heritage agency, “it is developers and the local authorities who are ultimately responsible and accountable for these streetscape changes” – with a district plan listing protecting a heritage building.

“In many cases buildings have been left to deteriorate till they are beyond salvage – which essentially is demolition through neglect. That, and the effects of gradual loss of heritage, is worrying people.

“Once the demolitions have happened, the heritage is gone forever. In the current economic times, developers and local authorities ought to be considering whether projects are viable. Who wants a pock-marked city with sealed car parks?”

Local authorities could support developers prepared to re-use heritage buildings through a range of incentives, Mr Graham said.

“These need to be more widely known about so that demolition becomes an option of last resort, not the only option.”

Dunedin City Council has signalled publicly that it is advancing changes to the Townscape section of the District Plan that would involve removal of the heritage provisions.


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