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NZ Old homestead saved for community

Property Here - Monday, April 29, 2013

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Three years ago, the future looked bleak for one of the oldest farm houses in Rodney as bulldozers carved out a housing subdivision around it and lawyers argued for a demolition order on health and safety grounds.

Stoney Homestead's veranda, where generations of farming pioneers had rested at day's end and looked out over Orewa's river and beach, had collapsed.

Its iron roof had turned red with rust, letting in rain and exposing kauri shingles.

Rats had gnawed perfect semi-circular holes in the rafters.

However, a Rodney District Council hearings panel refused consent to demolish the derelict house and its dairy and barn, saying a unique building would be lost.

Last year, restoration work started, backed by a $1.5 million budget set over four years by the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board.

The 1866 house now shows the benefit of its exterior restoration work, including a new veranda, roof and foundations.

"We could not do the whole thing at once, because the structure was so poor and letting in so much water that we had to do the urgent bits," said Auckland Council project leader Rachel Hume.

The council's principal northern heritage adviser, Anthony Barnes, worked with consulting conservation architect Antony Matthews to keep as much of the early material as possible.

Kauri shingles and all serviceable framing are retained under the new roof.

Mr Matthews matched colours from old paint flakes to replicate the original paintwork.

Interior restoration and landscaping are planned later.

Board member Gaye Harding said the council owned the site and building.

"We are now looking for a charitable trust to oversee the project, including use for community programmes and, possibly, a community cafe.

"It should be something that complements a heritage building." Board member John Kirikiri said that when he saw the house 12 years ago he gave it no hope for restoration.

"All I thought was it had to be made safe.

"But the community got behind the board, the subdivision developer gifted this to the council.

"Quite a bit of money is being spent to bring it up to scratch and ratepayers can't continue to fund it so the community will come up with a sustainable use."

WFH Properties is developing 3000 homes around the homestead in its Millwater subdivision in Silverdale North.

Spokesman Murray Drain said the company had been required to make a contribution towards the homestead's restoration as well as give it the site, which was big enough for three house sections.

"We are very pleased with what we see - its restoration is unbelievable when compared with what it was."

Robin Byron, who is architecture adviser for the Historic Places Trust, said the house, also known as Sea View, was one of the oldest surviving farm houses in the Rodney district.

"It is valuable as a tangible link to the area's past - the way it symbolises and demonstrates the way of life of an early pioneering family."

It had evolved over time but was virtually unchanged since 1904.