Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dodo as poster bird for Auckland's Heritage?

Cultural Curmudgeon Hamish Keith thinks so:

The Dodo might puzzle you.
Well it was fabulous and will be seen no more and that really makes it a poster bird for Auckland's Heritage.
To the simple mind, like those things that gave parts of our bland and sometimes ugly city a touch of class, "who cares it was only a bird".

In 2006 Auckland City published a pamphlet, one of a series, St Heliers Village HERITAGE WALK with the now ironic sub heading A saunter through St Heliers Past.
You can saunter there no more.
St Heliers' past is mostly gone.
Of the nineteen historic attractions listed ten were buildings or groups of buildings.
Of the ten, six have been demolished, one is obscured and one is altered almost beyond recognition. There a numerous others which give this place its character and charm that are under threat.
This is a truly appalling record.
Six out of ten heritage structures or precincts demolished.

Surely the citizens of St Heliers and the citizens of greater Auckland deserve an explanation.
Part of the contract we enter in to as citizens is that we accept and respect governance and in return those who govern afford us security and protection.
All of us.
Not just those who own property.
Not just the two development companies that have over the past few years managed to buy up most of the prime sites in an historic village.
All of us.

The latest on the St Heliers list to fall, the three Turua Street houses, will not be the last. The whole street is under threat.
But the residents have known this for a very long time.
Over a 100 of them took the opportunity to tell the council how they felt at a notified resource consent hearing for the demolition.

Did the council listen?

Instead the council staff connived with the developer in a piece of planning sleight of hand to grant a consent in another non-notified hearing. The council provide no reasonably satisfactory heritage assessment.

Here is the issue.
How did that happen?
How did the council staff scare its political bosses to impotence?
Are they impotent and if so why have they chosen to stay that way?

This is not just a left wing right wing issue - councils and councilors of both stripes have heritage crimes to their name.

Remember Coolangatta and His Majesty's Theatre.

The new mayor and council cannot just wring their hands and run around like a Tui billboard promising that it will never happen again.

Why did it happen this time?
That is the question that must be asked and must be asked now.
There will be a next time and a next time and another next time after that until what is broken about Auckland's heritage protection is fixed.

There are two underlying issues beyond this particular piece of jiggery-pokery that the council just does not get - sadly many of our citizens don't not get it either.
Heritage is not just buildings with some long and impressive CV.
It is sometimes that of course, but it is mostly the character of a place added to by the sum total of its parts.

Citizens who feel that about their city and respond to the enrichment it adds their lives and who strive to protect it, are not just busy bodies impeding development and getting in the way of architects who know better.

They have a right and a duty to defend what is valuable in their lives.
And we have a right and a duty to insist that those who govern do so in the interests of us all.

Posted By Hamish Keith to one city - many voices

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