By James Fyfe
Protestors have picketed a heritage building in Auckland’s Herne Bay this morning in a bid to stop plans to demolish the century-old villa.
They say the building forms an integral part of the historic Herne Bay streetscape and want the council to step in.
The building’s owner Jessica Woo was recently awarded a certificate of compliance, giving her the right to demolish the building – which is currently occupied by the Erawan Thai Restaurant.
The Herne Bay Residents’ Association are seeking a sit-down with the building’s owner.
“It’s a difficult situation because the owner is not acting outside the law,” says Christine Cavangh, secretary of the Herne Bay Residents’ Association.
“We would however like to sit down with the owner and leading architects to see whether there are ways the building can be saved which also work for the owner.”
But Western Bays Residents Association chair Geoff Houtman says attempts to contact Ms Woo have so far failed.
“We’ve tried to get in contact with the owner. I’ve left messages but she doesn’t answer or call back,” he says.
Protester John Elliott says the building is an iconic part of the neighbourhood and he is sick of watching heritage buildings “steadily disappear from the area”.
“It’s a disgrace,” he says. “The thing that annoys me the most is that this woman won’t even front up for any kind of discussion.”
Mr Houtman says a “best case” outcome would be the council allowing extra floor space on the rest of the site in return for placing a protective covenant on the building.
“[It] won’t cost the taxpayer anything, it makes the property more valuable - which cancels out [the owner’s] perceived lack of having this ‘horrible old villa’ there - and Herne Bay gets to keep a landmark,” he says.
Mr Houtman says the villa is just one of many heritage buildings to disappear in the area - the most recent being the Bethany Centre, a former home for vulnerable mothers.
“Current rules allow the destruction of our heritage all too often and not just in Herne Bay but in all corners of the expanded Auckland City and it must stop,” he says.
Mr Houtman says the group will continue to protest every Tuesday until action is taken.