Proposed Plan Change 16: Submitters Get a Second Chance

Submitters opposed to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery plan change will get a second chance to have their views heard because hearing commissioners say an article in the New Zealand Herald could have been misinterpreted.

North Shore City Council’s spokesman Trevor Mackie says that the four-day hearing in February was adjourned rather than closed because independent commissioners wanted the opportunity to notify additional submitters.

The issue was raised by a number of submitters that the article in the Herald led the community to believe that the plan change was off and that they didn’t need to go the hearing, says Mr Mackie.

Chelsea Sugar Refinery is seeking a change to the North Shore City Council’s district plan to allow it to develop the site if the refinery closed.

The land is zoned Business 9 for industrial activities. The owners are asking for an amendment to the district plan, which would allow for the development of residential and small-scale business activities.

The plan change is still being requested but Chelsea made amendments to its proposal before the hearing and withdrew more detailed plans, but it still includes plans to build 528 units on 15 hectares of waterfront land where the refinery currently operates.

The council will be sending letters out to more than 600 submitters to notify them of the latest revisions and to give those who didn’t
get a chance to speak an opportunity to do so.

Many submissions expressed concern about the effect the development would have on the historical site.

In December 2005 the Chelsea Park Trust entered a conditional agreement for the sale of the remaining 37ha of the land that the refinery would not build on.

The trust has secured $20 million for the land for a regional park, with $10m coming from North Shore City Council, but it is conditional on

Chelsea Sugar Refinery receiving .a “satisfactory planning outcome”.

Speakers at the hearing included representatives from the Chelsea Sugar Refinery, Chelsea Park Trust, New Zealand Historic Places Trust,

North Shore City Council, Birkenhead Residents Association, Auckland Regional Council and individual submitters from the area.

The independent commissioners at the hearing included lawyer Michael Savage, who also chaired the Long Bay and Birkenhead library hearings, Terry Brown, a transportation and traffic expert and Jenny Hudson a planning consultant.

We thank Kim Reed and North Shore Times, for permission to reprint this article in full.

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Written by: Kim Reed
Reprinted with permission: North Shore Times

Demolition man sick of historic destruction

DEMOLITION MAN: Mike Vickers says the near demolition of this heritage home on Arawa Ave in Devonport is part of a growing trend.

Mike Vickers is sick of tearing down beautiful North Shore heritage homes.

The North Shore Demolition boss says heritage zones in Devonport, Northcote Pt and Birkenhead are being gutted as developers exploit resource consent loopholes.

He fears a flood of historic Shore houses may soon be destroyed or altered beyond recognition.

“There are going to be no heritage areas left if this keeps up,” hesays.

“We’re losing our history on a speedy basis.

“Some of these jobs I feel like walking away from, but then if I do there is always someone else willing to do it.

“It shouldn’t be allowed to happen, end of story.”

Rules protecting the North Shore’s heritage homes aren’t stringent enough, says Mr Vickers.

He often sees resource consents granted for alterations to historic houses which are then almost completely demolished.

In other cases developers simply tear down a heritage home, pay a fine, then redevelop the property, he says.

“It’s all about money. It’s another land grab. A piece of vacant land in some of these areas is worth $2 million or $3m.

“It’s easier to start from scratch than to renovate an old bungalow.

“Quite often you can put two houses on these sections.”

Heritage homes were recently demolished or partially demolished in Birkenhead and Devonport.

One home on Arawa St, next to Cheltenham Beach, was almost torn down after its owners were given consent to restore and rennovate it.

Residents and councillors have called for an investigation.

Birkenhead residents are angry over a house recently removed from Mariposa St, near Highbury.

Consent for 90 percent removal of the historic bungalow was granted in 2005, and that was changed to a total removal consent in 2006.

The consent was non-notified and carried out by council officers.

Harbour ward councillor Tony Holman says North Shore heritage homes are disappearing at an alarming rate.

He is taking measures to toughen up rules protecting heritage zones and delegate more decisions on heritage areas to councillors.

It’s also important the council employs more hard-to-find heritage specialists, he says.

“Our special character areas are being eroded. We’re losing a huge visual and economic resource.

“People with lots of money come to a heritage area, saying they love the ambience. They buy a heritage house and then say: ‘Nevermind, I want a modern one’.”

Birkenhead Residents Association member Carol Scott is calling for strict protections to preserve Birkenhead’s character.

Many consents have been given for rennovations that gut important historic buildings, she says.

“Time and time again, you just get to the point where you feel like saying: ‘Are we going to bother to protect heritage or not?’

“This is a finite resource. They aren’t making it any more.

“It is not only an aesthetic and historical good, but in this day and age it’s a financial good.”

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Photo/s by: BEN WATSON/North Shore Times
Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Chelsea park may be scapped

AT RISK: Neil Darroch is worried the opportunity for a public park at the picturesque Chelsea Estate will slip away.

Court action could kill plans for a $20 million public park near the Chelsea Sugar Refinery.

The Auckland Regional Council and New Zealand Historic Places Trust are appealing a district plan change allowing development at the refinery, in the Environment Court.

In response the refinery has put off plans to sell 37 hectares of its prime seaside section to the Chelsea Park Trust.

That sale was conditional on it being allowed to put up to 528 units on another 15 hectares, which include its iconic pink buildings.

Chelsea Park Trust spokesman Neil Darroch says the appeals are likely to crush any chance of a park at Chelsea.

The refinery is sick of delays and is ready to pull out of the conditional purchase agreement, he says.

“If this goes to a hearing it is very likely Chelsea will pull out of the deal. They’ve had enough. It’s taken so long and been so costly.”

It’s unlikely there will be another chance to turn land at Chelsea into a public park if this deal falls through, Mr Darroch says.

“If there ever is another chance to purchase, it will probably be unaffordable.

“This is a sad day.”

PROPOSED PARK: The Chelsea Sugar Refinery wants to sell 37 hectares of its land for a public park and keep another 15 hectares for redevelopment.

It’s disappointing the appeals have been lodged, says Chelsea’s New Zealand general manager Bernard Duignan.

If they hadn’t, the park sale would almost certainly have gone ahead, he says.

“We’re very disappointed. I wouldn’t have seen any other impediments to the sale.”

The historic places trust says it is appealing the district plan change to help save Chelsea Estate for North Shore residents.

It is concerned about the decision to allow up to 528 units on the land, which it sees as an important industrial heritage site.

Development that intense could have a huge impact on the landscape, it says.

When contacted by the North Shore Times, a regional council spokesperson said talks on its appeal are under way.

The council hopes to reach a compromise that would see it withdraw court action.

Long-serving Harbour ward councillor and Chelsea park supporter Tony Holman has spoken out against the appeals.

The objections aren’t worth jeopardising a park that would be a huge asset for the North Shore, he says.

“There may be some things within the decision that are concerning but the time for dealing with them is in the future.
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“We have an opportunity to buy a magnificent park. Losing it would be an absolute disaster for the whole region.”

The refinery agreed to sell 37 hectares of its prime Birkenhead seaside section to the Chelsea Park Trust for $20 million in 2005.

The North Shore City Council agreed to pay $10m of that, with the ASB Charitable Trust, regional council and the government providing the rest.

The only condition was that the refinery be granted a district plan change rezoning 15 hectares of its land for future residential use.

That was granted by independent commissioners last year despite dozens of objections from residents.

No court date has been set for the appeals by the regional council and historic places.

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Photo/s by: BEN WATSON/North Shore Times
Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Library delay could cost $2.2m

The new Birkenhead library could cost more than $9 million due to delays.

The library building and Civic Centre look set to be built on Nell Fisher Reserve by late 2009, with initial designs boasting 250 square metres of more floorspace than the old Birkenhead library.

North Shore City Council community services and parks committee members were surprised to hear the initial estimated building costs have increased to $9.5m. The original budget set in 2004-05 was $7.3m.

Committee chairman Tony Holman says the increased cost is a concern.

“Construction costs have gone up so much since the original plan, but we’ll have to find the extra money,” says Mr Holman.

“The additional cost won’t be carried by ratepayers though. We are looking at re-allocating funds from other projects.”

But councillor Margaret Miles says the full council hasn’t discussed this.

“That wasn’t discussed at the meeting. I understand some councillors are campaigning for lower rates but this is something the whole council has to look at.

“There has to be a discussion with the whole council,” she says.

She says if funds are re-allocated then other projects will be deferred or won’t happen, so there is still the potential that the increase will affect rates.

A governance and advisory group has been set up to monitor the project and make recommendations to the community services and parks committee.

The group consists of Mr Holman, councillors Joy Brett, Grant Gillon, Ann Hartley, Chris Darby, community services general manager Lorretta Burnett and two Birkenhead/Northcote Community Board members.

Mr Holman says the group is needed to make sure there are no more unnecessary problems or delays.

“If we get things wrong again I would hate to think of the consequences.”

The project has already been an embarrassment to the council.

It suffered long delays because the old library was demolished in 2005 before resource consent was secured to build the new library.

Hearing commissioners then turned down the consent application and the council was forced to reapply.

Further delays were caused when the owners of the Rawene Chambers building, opposite Nell Fisher Reserve, lodged an appeal in the Environment Court.

That court finally gave the project the go-ahead earlier this year.

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Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Library gets go-ahead

A welcome “pre-Christmas present” has gone to Birkenhead residents having to put up with a long wait for a local library.

Building consent has just been granted for a new Birkenhead library, paving the way for construction to start in early 2009.

All those who have been working on and waiting for the library are delighted, says Northcote councillor Tony Holman.

“There has been much frustration in the past about the delays for this library, but today brings a very nice pre-Christmas present,” he says.

The old Birkenhead library was demolished in 2005 to make way for a bigger and more modern building.

But before building could start on the new library, independent commissioners denied it resource consent.

Council was forced to reapply, but that was appealed to the Environment Court by owners of the neighbouring Rawene Chambers building.

About $1.3 million of council money has been spent getting consents for the building and defending legal appeals.

A temporary library has been established at Birkenhead Leisure Centre during the three years of delays.

Mr Holman says the new council has made putting a new library in Birkenhead one of its top priorities.

“We’re well aware that many people have found it difficult to use the interim library and we’re conscious of the economic effects on Highbury town centre.

“We hope that the new library will help provide new enthusiasm for the use of the library and rejuvenate the centre,” he says.

The new library will house the Birkenhead/Northcote Community Board meeting rooms, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Plunket and the area’s community coordinator.

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Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

New chapter for library

A new library is on the way for Birkenhead after years of delays.
REVISED DESIGN: Models of how Birkenhead library could look once it is completed in November 2009.

A new library is on the way for Birkenhead after years of delays.

Resource consent has been granted for a library at Nell Fisher Reserve, paving the way for it to be built starting in late November.

That ends three years of frustration for Birkenhead residents.

They have been without a library since June 2005, when North Shore City Council demolished the
area’s old library before it had consent to build a new one.

A month later, independent commissioners turned down its plans for a $6.5 million replacement library.

The council then attempted to rezone the reserve to pave the way for a library.

That was appealed in the Environment Court by Abraham Holdings, further delaying the set up of a new library.

North Shore mayor Andrew Williams says he knows being without a central library building has been difficult for residents.

Birkenhead lost a part of its heart and soul with the loss of its library and civic services, he says.

“I was very concerned at the ongoing delays in putting the matter right and I am pleased that the centre can now move to its next step.

“The 2662 square metre library and community facilities building will be an icon.”

Community services and parks committee chairman Tony Holman commends library workers for their patient wait in temporary accomodation.

Plunket, Citizens Advice Bureau and the area’s community coordinator were all moved when the old library was torn down.

An interim library building away from the Highbury town centre has not been well-used by residents.

“We’re well aware that many people have found it difficult to use the interim library and we’re conscious of the economic effects on Highbury town centre. We hope that the new library will help provide new enthusiasm for the use of the library and rejuvenate the Highbury town centre,” says Mr Holman.

Councillor Ann Hartley has called the decision to tear down the old library without consent for a new one a “$1 million mistake”.

She is pleased to see the library get consent but says that doesn’t excuse the delays and “incompetency” of council officers.

“Put it this way, I won’t be giving anyone a bonus. It’s the minimum output one would expect.”

The new library will be built to Green Star NZ status which evaluates building projects against eight environmental impact categories.

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Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Funding approved for ferry terminal

The much-awaited Birkenhead ferry terminal project is finally going full steam ahead.

North Shore city councillor Ann Hartley says the Auckland Regional Transport Authority has confirmed funding for installation of a hydraulic boarding ramp.

She says ARTA strategy and planning general manager Peter Clark made the confirmation at last week’s meeting of the Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee.

Mr Clark said the authority is providing $1.5 million for a modern ramp to be installed soon, with the council having completed pile strengthening to enable installation.

Ms Hartley is happy with the news that the ferry terminal project will finally move ahead.

“This is something that we in Birkenhead have been pushing a lot for,” she says.

She says the ramp will make it easier for passengers to move between the terminal to the ferry.

Good ferry services at Birkenhead will help with the success of the soon to be introduced Beach Haven ferry service, she says.

Ms Hartley says detailed design of the Beach Haven wharf is half-way complete, with construction due to start in October and be completed by March 2009.

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Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Heritage site apartments denounced

UNITED FRONT: Food critic Annabelle White, left, residents association member Warwick Jones, lawyer Bruce Stainton, and resident Carol Scott are among those opposing a proposed Birkenhead apartment block.UNITED FRONT: Food critic Annabelle White, left, residents association member Warwick Jones, lawyer Bruce Stainton, and resident Carol Scott are among those opposing a proposed Birkenhead apartment block.

People from TV cooks to North Shore’s mayor have joined forces to denounce apartment plans in a Birkenhead heritage area.

A resource consent hearing on a proposed 18 apartment and four office development at 83 Hinemoa St was adjourned on May 2.

There were 500 submitters against the development plans, including about half of the 800 local residents, says Shore mayor Andrew Williams.

None were in favour.

Among those who spoke at the hearing were well-known food critic and broadcaster Annabelle White, Carter Holt Harvey director Fraser Whineray, heritage architect Jeremy Salmond and mayor Andrew Williams.

Ms White rejected the proposed development as too high, too dominant and out of keeping with the surrounding heritage area.

She called the building “an ugly visual pollutant where something tasteful could have been proposed. Wrong style, wrong materials, wrong time period, wrong size.”

Mr Williams backed her case as an expert witness on heritage areas.

He says he does not want the apartment block to be approved during his time as mayor.

The application is only possible because of an anomaly in the district plan that saw the site zoned for business, he says.

“We only get one shot at this. We have to act now to preserve our heritage areas.”

Respected heritage architect Mr Salmond spoke against the development on behalf of Birkenhead Residents Association.

He said the proposed building does not fit with the heritage character of Birkenhead Pt and has an “uncomfortably slab-like appearance”.

The apartment design was classified as “modern non-descript” and its dimensions were described as too dominant.

Developer Aptus Projects, which is owned by Richard Beca, defended the apartment and office block plans.

Its contractor Lisa Mein of Boffa Miskell said the block fits with the “seven c’s”
of essential design qualities.

She maintains it’s in the right context, has good character, provides people choice, connects residents, has a creative design, takes good custody of the land and is a product of collaborative design.

“I am satisfied that
either building would create a landmark on the street and would make a positive contribution.”

Traffic engineers and a resource consent expert also supported the apartment proposal.

Aptus Projects first applied to put 20 apartments at 83 Hinemoa St in 2005, but withdrew its plans after 440 people submitted against them.

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Photo/s by: BEN CAMPBELL/North Shore Times
Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Felled pohutukawa posed risk

Twelve historic pohutukawa trees in Hinemoa Park have been felled because their deteriorating condition posed a risk to the public, says the council.

Hinemoa Park, located near to Birkenhead ferry terminal, has been home to 61 native pohutukawa trees since the 1920s.

Birkenhead and Northcote parks officer Bob Wallace says a lack of knowledge about correct treatment of the trees had contributed to their demise.

“They go back to the 1920s and 1930s, and historically have had poor pruning techniques which is one of the many factors which caused the decline,” he says.

Mr Wallace says that little attention had been given to the ground around the trees, and they had been thickly planted.

Some remaining trees are also sick, but the North Shore City Council is planning an intensive care programme including careful pruning and monitoring in an effort to save them.

Thirteen large pohutukawa will take the place of those cut down but if more felling is necessary there will be no more replanting. “The existing trees will be given a bit more room to breathe,” says Mr Wallace.

Birkenhead resident Jane Roberts says she is unhappy the historic trees have been removed.

“The trees in Hinemoa Park are just beautiful.

“I feel like the council gave residents no say in the matter before they were cut down.”

Mr Wallace says the council had no choice in the matter as the trees posed a safety threat both to the public and parked cars.

A rigorous consent process was followed before the go ahead was given, he says.

“We also did extensive circulation around residents, and put brochures on cars,” he says.

– Sophie Schroder is an AUT journalism student

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Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Wharf trees to be axed

A dozen mature pohutukawa are set to get the chop at Hinemoa Park in Birkenhead.

Public notices are about to go out on the decision to cut down the grove of pohutukawa in the park by Birkenhead Wharf.

North Shore City Council officers say the trees are in poor health and are a hazard to cars parked at the wharf.

They have received resource consent for the work on the trees.

The felling is described as a first step in plans to cut down a number of dangerous trees in the park.

“The limbs are breaking off. Cars are getting damaged on the foreshore area. It was a foregone conclusion that they had to come out. They’re now dangerous to park users,” says the council’s Birkenhead and Northcote parks officer Bob Wallace.

“There’s a general support for what’s being done.”

But some residents are upset at the plans to remove the trees, which they say are an icon of area.

Birkenhead Residents Association member Carol Scott says cutting down the trees will have a “devastating” effect on the seaside park.

Residents haven’t been consulted enough on the felling and many still don’t know about it, she says.

“Because it’s going to have such a devastating effect, it’s council’s responsibility to engage the public. People should have been made more aware of this,” she says.

“I’ve got people coming up to me saying ‘surely it’s not true’.”

Birkenhead arborist Gary Claxton says the felling plans are generally understandable, but could be toned down.

He has recommended council officers keep two of the trees and put a better plan in place to manage their health.

“There’s going to be discontent, but on the whole I thought the decision is pretty good, with the exception of a couple of trees.”

Public meetings are scheduled this month on the felling plans, says Mr Wallace.

He expects to see a the trees come out over the course of two days in May.

Parks at the wharf will be closed off while the felling is going on, meaning ferry commuters will have to park on side streets off Hinemoa St.

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Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times