Parore describes how century-old house falling down round family’s ears

Published 5 February 2006

Adam Parore & Sally Ridge’s challenge to the Auckland City Council’s proposed anti-demolition rule for pre-1940 houses read more the other way round when it got to a hearing on Thursday – a challenge to force them to keep an expensive house which has been falling down round their ears.


Former New Zealand wicketkeeper Mr Parore, now a director of his own mortgage company, Index Group Ltd, told the 3 independent commissioners & one community board member that he & Ms Ridge had bought the house at 41 Arthur St, Freemans Bay, for $2.4 million in 2003 and had intended to spend $800,000 renovating it into a quality family home.

But in August 2004 they were told they’d need to spend at least $500,000 on structural work just to get it to comply with the building code, before they do their planned renovations. Instead, they decided to knock the house down and start again.

And then came plan change 163

Unfortunately for them, by the time they changed their minds, designed a new house & applied for resource consent, the city council had introduced plan change 163, aimed at stopping demolition in the residential 1 & 2 character zones.

Plan change 163 was notified on 27 May 2005 and the application for consent was lodged at the end of September 2005.

Mr Parore said they moved into the house in March 2004 and planned to assess renovation ideas over the next 6 months, refining the design as their experience & familiarity with the site developed.

Practical matters soon took over. The footings were in “an appalling state,” the site appeared to be subsiding on one boundary and, Mr Parore said: “After a number of nights of awaking halfway down the bed we realised that the front of the house was gradually sinking beneath us.”

Among the problems he listed were:

The ground level became completely uninhabitable due to moisture seeping into the floor as a result of a lack of waterproofing
The upstairs bathroom, which also has no waterproofing, is now also leaking through the roof, blowing out the ground-floor wiring. “I will no longer switch on the lights on the ground floor – just in case”
The bathroom wiring blew out and the fitting fell out of the ceiling
The drains blocked, requiring the external drainage & retention to be reworked. “The shower & all of the sinks continue to backwash to this day”
The eaves on the northern side of the house rotted & collapsed as a result of there being no drainage on the roof of the lean-to extension at the rear of the house
The rear steps rotted & collapsed as a result of using untreated timber in their construction
The glass in the boys’ bedroom upstairs fell out of its frame as a result of the house buckling as it slowly slides forward
The carport door has collapsed as the structure buckled due to water leaking through its roof and collecting on the garage door when raised
The brick wall on the eastern boundary had to be removed after coming away from the garage wall supporting it and posing a potential danger to young (neighbouring) children who played beneath it.

Mr Parore & Ms Ridge’s lawyer, David Kirkpatrick, said it wasn’t simply a question of cost: “The existing house has been modified to a very great extent and a number of those modifications present real difficulties, both in terms of design and in terms of structure…..

“The evidence shows that whatever may remain of the pre-1940 portions of the house has been substantially modified, and not very well at that….. It is not capable of being brought up to a satisfactory standard without infringing bulk & location controls and spending substantial sums of money.

“In my submission, keeping this house as it is will not serve to protect historic heritage or advance the objectives & policies of plan change 163 or the rest of the district plan. On the other hand, the proposed new house will provide a quality family home in keeping with the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Lawyer says plan change should have little weight at moment

Mr Kirkpatrick said plan change 163 had gone through the submission & further-submission stages but these hadn’t been heard yet. Planners for both the council & the applicants said at this stage the plan change should be given relatively little weight, leaving the existing district plan as the dominant planning document.

Nevertheless, Mr Kirkpatrick devoted some attention to the plan change & the issue of “preserving heritage” because there’d been some publicity surrounding this application: “The essence of protecting heritage is to try & avoid destroying what is worth keeping, so as to be of value for the present  & for future generations.

“The applicants support that: their intention when acquiring this property was to renovate the existing house. But on closer inspection & investigation, it is now clear that the existing house is not worth keeping. That is not an aesthetic choice: it is effectively forced on the applicants by the architectural & engineering problems that the existing house presents.”

Mr Kirkpatrick said refusal of demolition consent would, on the evidence, “raise a significant issue about whether there was any ‘reasonable use’ that could be made of this building in terms of section 85 of the Resource Management Act….. If this house is not safe or suitable for a home, then why should Mr Parore & Ms Ridge be required to make do with it?….

“If the existing house is not worth keeping, then we have to move on: however regrettable it may be, the act does not require us to perform heroics once a building such as this is beyond renovation.”

He said there would be no precedent effect and no cumulative effects from granting consent.

The existing 2-storey weatherboard villa was built in 1900. 3 accessory buildings on the 976m² site would also be demolished. It’s at the end of a cul-de-sac immediately below Ponsonby Rd, with views across to the cbd.

The proposal received a number of written submissions and verbal submissions from 5 (4 opposing) at what was supposed to be a 2-day hearing but lasted just over 3 hours. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole hearing and didn’t hear these submissions.

The commissioners, Ron Wright (chairman), Ross Gee, John Hill & community board member Chris Dempsey reserved their decision.

Earlier stories:

4 October 2005: Parore & Ridge proposal challenges new anti-demolition rule

4 September 2005: Council moves to stop pre-40s demolition

29 May 2005: Plan change 163 stops residential 1 & 2 zone demolition


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Attribution: Hearing documents & submissions (but not all), story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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