Hall’s fu­ture in doubt

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By MARIA SLADE

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.

Photo: LAWRENCE SMITH

Un­cer­tain fate: The fu­ture of the New­man Catholic Hall on Water­loo Quad­rant is un­cer­tain.

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