Last week the Birdcage shifted back to its original position. For some this looked like a small trip for a brick hotel but it was actually a great leap for Auckland heritage. As the local MP it was a real eye opener to be part of a huge effort and fight to help community to deliver this. The great thing about the Birdcage Hotel was that the community was able to have a direct conversation with the developer. As a result Aucklanders will be able to enjoy not only the Hotel, but also the revamped kindergarten and the new public plaza for years to come.
The history of Auckland is that heritage battles have almost always been confrontations rather than conversations. Some developers have good intentions but the process doesn’t encourage direct conversations with the community. One of the benefits of having one Auckland Council is that we can now have a much more integrated and planned approach to heritage that looks right across Auckland. It is great to see the Mayor is signalling a significant shift to ensure that both Auckland’s built and cultural heritage is better protected.
The Council is working on a draft heritage plan which is due for release in the next few months. One of the issues that the Council has found is that there is a lack of information about heritage sites and a desperate need for more research and better documentation. A recent report says “Identification of significant heritage resources is not comprehensive, for example less than 30% of the region has been comprehensively surveyed for cultural heritage sites, and much cultural heritage data that has been collected is dated.”
The council is also signalling that they are keen to incentivise and proactively encourage good heritage management. It is positive that they are considering a full range of potential incentives including private public partnerships, rates relief, expert heritage advice, the use of reserve/development contributions, and heritage grants. They also have work underway to look at Council processes relating to applications for the demolition of buildings constructed pre 1900 to ensure property owners are aware of their obligations under the Historic Places Act.
At a central government level we reviewed the Historic Places Trust to ensure it will be better able to focus on its important regulatory role while allowing for better advocacy in local communities. We have also announced changes to the process for getting approval for archaeological consents so that they are faster, simpler, and more efficient. In the last month a number of MPs within National have formed a heritage caucus to advance better policy and legislation. If you have ideas about legislative or policy improvements then please email me at email@example.com.
Whatever policy or legislation is implemented in the future, we need to make sure there is greater transparency, greater notice for the community of what is proposed, and more capacity for collaboration between the developer and the community. It is appropriate that the Birdcage Hotel, a place where many a conversation has been had, represents a larger conversation about our heritage.