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NZ- Graffiti magnet in heritage battle

Sean Wang - Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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A building that has been an Auckland graffiti magnet for years could be given heritage status - despite the owner wanting to knock it down.

Stuart Galloway, a director of several companies that own three buildings, including the old Yates building at 9-11 Albert St, yesterday began arguing in the Environment Court for less stringent Auckland Council protection measures.

For years, the Golden Kiwi lottery winner has tried to redevelop his land.

But the Auckland Society for Amenity Protection wants the existing measures strengthened to ensure the buildings are recognised for their historic merits.

Both parties are taking a case against the Auckland Council. The hearing started yesterday and is to run for three days.

The Yates building and the two on Wolfe St built between 1911 and 1928 are at the centre of the proceedings.

An outcry from residents and the Stamford Plaza Hotel just before the Rugby World Cup resulted in the graffiti-bombed buildings being cleaned and painted by the council.

Mr Galloway hopes to bring international hotel chain Carlson to New Zealand to a new tower he wants built there.

But in 2004, protection society representative Allan Matson applied to have the buildings scheduled A, the highest rating.

The council's lawyer, Bill Loutit, said yesterday nearly all heritage witnesses agreed the buildings would score category A together.

All three should be scored as a group, preventing substantial or total demolition, Mr Loutit said.

But Mr Galloway wanted two buildings scored as category B, which Mr Loutit said "would not provide the same protection to the historic heritage fabric".

A wide range of activities could be carried out in the Yates building if it was renovated, Mr Loutit said.

Mr Galloway appealed against the council's decision to schedule the Yates building as a category B because it would render it unable to be put to reasonable use and would place an unfair and unreasonable burden on him, Mr Loutit said.

Scoring it a B would mean it could be partially demolished but an A score would prohibit substantial demolition.

"The protection of historic heritage is a matter of national significance. Scheduling the buildings as a category A will ensure that they cannot be demolished substantially or in their entirety," Mr Loutit argued.

"The council considers that category A scheduling will still enable a comprehensive development of the wider block to occur while at the same time protecting the important heritage fabric of the buildings."

The case is continuing.