As the local MP one of the projects that I am most proud of has been helping the community deliver good heritage outcomes with the Birdcage Hotel being shifted back to its original position. 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. I support the Auckland Council and their aim to progress a heritage plan for Auckland.
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.
Locally, I have supported the Auckland Theatre Company proposal for a theatre to be built and located at Wynyard Quarter. With 75% of funds potentially coming from private sources and sponsorship this could be a relatively inexpensive performing arts venue for the city to invest in. We know that between 6000 and 7000 people will live and work in Wynyard Quarter in the future. The theatre could be within walking distance of many residents within the Western Bays and a great amenity for the rest of the city. I also believe that the restoration of the St James Theatre needs to happen but there is a lot of work to do before we can restore the jewel to her rightful place in our city. There are significant heritage issues and it is positive that the Mayor is getting an urgent report assessing ways to save the iconic St James Theatre. In addition to this the role of the Mercury Theatre needs to be properly considered.
The history of Auckland is inadequate investment and planning in cultural and community infrastructure. I believe that one of the problems of the past is that we have been unable to look far ahead as a city and ask not what we need now but what we will need in the next 20-30 years. The Auckland Spatial Plan will enable us to better plan for cultural infrastructure.