MaximusFebruary 27, 2013
For those that are interested, the following is the text of the final paragraphs of the decision on the Harcourts building:
(302) In the end, for the reasons we have outlined, we have concluded that the demolition of the Harcourts building would not constitute sustainable management of an important physical resource, namely a heritage building of considerable significance.
(303) Consequently, having regard to the evidence presented, and the relevant statutory criteria under s104(C) and Part 2 of the Resource Management Act 1991, and for the reasons set out below, the Independent Commissioners DECLINE consent to demolish the listed heritage building at 30 Grey Street / 203-213 Lambton Quay, Wellington Central…
REASONS FOR DECISION
(304) Section 113(1)(a) of the Act requires that we state the reasons for our decision. Although it will be clear from the body of our report, for the avoidance of doubt we confirm that the principle reasons for declining consent are:
1. The Harcourts building is a heritage building of city and regional significance. Demolition of the building will result in a significant loss of historic heritage resulting in adverse effects that cannot be avoided, remedied or mitigated if demolition occurs.
2. In relation to the matter of the building having been identified as an earthquake-prone building under the Building Act 2004 and consequential ‘public safety’ issues, we agree that peoples’ health and safety is a matter we should have regard to, and we have.
3. Based on the evidence before us, we have concluded that not every ‘reasonable alternative solution’ for retaining the building has been considered. This includes strengthening to a standard of less than 100%NBS.
4. With regard to the positive effects, we have not taken into account those positive effects that might result from the construction of a new Central Area building, including any positive effects in relation to CBD vitality and vibrancy. These effects we consider fall outside our discretion, which is restricted to an assessment of ‘historic heritage’.
5. In relation to Part 2 matters we have concluded that the demolition of the Harcourts building would not constitute ‘appropriate’ use and development – rather, based on the possibility that the building is equal or greater than 42%NBS (and here we draw on the evidence of Win Clark) we consider that its demolition would be inappropriate within the meaning of s6(f) which directs that we should have regard to the ‘protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use and development’ as a matter of national importance.
6. The demolition of the Harcourts building would be inconsistent with regional policy, as expressed in the Regional Policy Statement, and with District Plan policy, in relation to historic heritage.
7. For the reasons above we have concluded overall that the demolition of the Harcourts building would be inconsistent with Part 2 of the Act which promotes sustainable management of natural and physical resources, including historic heritage resources.
(305) We have found our decision-making on the application to be challenging. We acknowledge the significance of the issues we have been asked to consider and determine. On the one hand there are important matters of historic heritage, and on the other important matters of public safety and costs.
(306) It may be that this is one of the first, if not the first, publicly notified resource consent applications in the post-Canterbury earthquakes ‘environment’ where consent is being sought under the Resource Management Act 1991 to demolish a significant heritage building, principally on the grounds of public safety, given that the Applicant has been served with an Earthquake-Prone Building Notice under the Building Act 2004. We acknowledge that the applicant has also addressed the issue of commercial viability, in addition to public safety.
(307) It was very clear to us that the evidence presented by the Applicant and submitters, both those in support and opposition, drew out the very real ‘tension’ between these two important ‘public interest’ matters.
(308) We fully appreciate the heavy responsibilities that are very clearly falling on the Applicant as the owner of the Harcourts building.
(309) However, in the end result, and based on the evidence before us, and guided by the various statutory responsibilities that flow from the Resource Management Act 1991 and, in this case, the operative Wellington City District Plan, we have concluded that we should decline the application. This is not a decision we have made easily or taken lightly. It is, however, the decision that we consider in the circumstances of this application and the evidence before us to be the ‘correct’ decision.
Alistair Aburn, Chair