Hall’s future in doubt
THE Catholic church says its plans to restore an historic central Auckland building are now uncertain, because the site has been classed as significant to local Maori.
The church’s Auckland Diocese owns Newman Hall, a 150-year-old listed building in Waterloo Quadrant near the High Court.
The Diocese aims to develop the land behind it, therefore funding conservation of the house.
But the property is also home to a fresh water spring that was essential to life at two local pa and their surrounding gardens in precolonial and colonial times.
Called Wai Ariki, or chiefly waters, the spring has been listed as a Site of Significance to Mana Whenua under the incoming unitary plan, and the church says it now does not know what it can do with the site.
Mana whenua scheduling, requiring property owners to seek iwi approval for work on their land, has been a controversial issue.
The issue hit the headlines last year, when property magnate Bob Jones’ company had to contact 13 iwi before it could remove a wall and replace it with a glass frontage for a ground-floor restaurant.
The Auckland Diocese has opposed the Newman Hall listing in a submission to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP), and is critical of the mana whenua process.
Auckland Council had rebuffed requests for further information, telling the Dio- cese to go and consult with iwi, it says in its submission.
‘‘Given the value of CBD land, this is a multi-million dollar question for the Bishop [of Auckland],’’ the submission says.
‘‘The council has made it impossible for the Bishop to assess what the practical implications of scheduling the item might be.
‘‘It is not clear what standards the council has applied . . . or what independent expert assessment, if any, the council has undertaken of the signifi- cance of those items.’’
It left the church in the unsatisfactory position of having to object to the listing as a matter of principle, it says. The Diocese has developed concept plans for a 10,000 square metre highrise office building and carparking on the site.
It also has a conservation plan for Newman Hall, but says it won’t be able to restore the building if it can’t go ahead with the development.
One of the two iwi which nominated the site for scheduling is Ngati Whatua o Orakei.
Trustee Ngarimu Blair says as far as he is aware the church has never spoken to the iwi about it.
Just because the site is scheduled doesn’t mean it can’t be developed, he says.
‘‘The first thing is, they should come and talk to us – let’s have a talk about how the significance of the spring can be preserved in any future development.’’
In the early days of European settlement local Maori used to trade the water with colonial ships, rolling it in barrels down to the waterfront, he says.
Later, when iwi lost control of the land, a bottling factory was built around the spring and the bottled water sold on Queen St.
Today the spring still bubbles through the ruins of the old factory, and some Ngati Whatua people collect it for use in ceremonies, he says.
The Catholic church has owned Newman Hall since the 1950s and uses it as the chaplaincy for Auckland University. It was built around 1863 by David Nathan, the founder of LD Nathan & Company.
The original building has a Category A historic place listing.
In a deal with the council the church is allowed to develop the back of the section in return for restoring Newman Hall.
The PAUP currently doesn’t record that correctly, and the church has asked for that to be amended.
Uncertain fate: The future of the Newman Catholic Hall on Waterloo Quadrant is uncertain.