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Heritage Homeowners Make Plea Direct To RMA Minister

The Voluntary Heritage Group has formally issued a “plea for help” to the RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop, asking him to enshrine in law the right to refuse heritage designation.

Following Wellington City Council dropping heritage status on disputed properties, debate about the costs and disadvantages of heritage designations was illustrated in a weekend Post story which highlighted how heritage designations have high public costs such as limiting house-building and infrastructure improvement.

VHG Spokesperson Phil Barry says the group has written to the Minister arguing that giving property-owners the power to say “no” would bring an end to thousands of “unjustified” heritage designations.

The letter asks the Minister to add the following line to a rewritten Resource Management Act: “A property may only be added to a Council’s District Plan as heritage-designated with the express written consent of the property owner.”

“The one power we need is the ability to say ‘no’.” Barry says.

“It’s a word which will free homeowners and unlock an array of development opportunity.

“Real world problems are now directly challenging the validity of heritage status. The public benefits are so inconsequential and intangible, that the owners of homes must have the right to refuse.

“Homeowners are at the mercy of Council heritage decisions based on flimsy and intangible grounds.”

“This is taking control of someone’s house without taking it from them. The designation severely restricts what owners can do with their house. Even painting or adding modern advantages like heat pumps and double-glazed windows is restricted or require council agreement.

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"These impacts become more obvious with prominent examples like the Gordon Wilson flats, the Wellington Town Hall, the 'heritage' bus tunnels, and other sites. Heritage designations are all too often subject to the law of unintended consequences. Sites that are meant to be protected become derelict, eyesores for the community, or end up as earthquake hazards.”

He added that a compensation rule would be insufficient because it would be left to cash-strapped Councils and officials to decide.

“Compensation for the true cost of the restrictions would never be agreed to by Councils, and the psychological and welfare harms from loss of control over your own home, can never be adequately compensated,” Barry says.

See attached letter to the Minister here.

© Scoop Media

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