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Homeowners Join Council Appeal To RMA Minister; Heritage Should Be Voluntary

The Voluntary Heritage Group (VHG) of homeowners are to write to the RMA Reform Minister in support of the Wellington City Council’s letter made public today, and insist that any law must enshrine the right for building owners to refuse heritage designation in the first instance.

VHG Convenor Phil Barry says residents fight against Council heritage designations because they add expensive maintenance and insurance costs that families can’t afford.

“Wellington has realised that heritage designations come back to bite you.

“Heritage properties are expensive to repair and maintain, and require complex and problematic consenting. Councils regularly deal with consent requests from heritage homeowners wanting to replace a window.”

“We’re calling on the Minister to amend the RMA to require the consent of the building owner for heritage designation.

“In Wellington’s case, this would have stopped all ten of the buildings the Council has just de-listed from being heritage listed in the first place.”

Barry says the clause would be a commonsense change, as the building owner is ultimately the bearer of the costs that come with heritage designation.

“Requiring express consent from the building owner for any heritage designation would prevent situations like those in Wellington, where an owner or developer receives a heritage designation which they haven’t asked for, they don’t want, and they cannot afford. The building is then left to rot.”

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“Councils would still be free to place heritage listings on properties they own. For example, the Hutt City Council could retain its heritage-listed Petone Wharf, which has been closed to the public for years, and require itself to stump up for the estimated repair cost of $23m.”

Barry says other councils are not as progress-minded as the current Wellington City Council and are actively using heritage to avoid the Government’s intensification laws.

“Councils are going beyond the intentions of Heritage New Zealand, and lumping heritage designations on privately-owned homes with little or no heritage value and with flagrant disregard for the additional costs and compliance it causes for families.

Hutt City Council has already designated 59 properties as heritage beyond the 55 identified by Heritage New Zealand. It is now proposing that an extra 113 buildings, including private residences, be designated as heritage under its draft District Plan. Wellington City Council has itself designated 246 buildings as heritage that aren’t on the national list.

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