Nearly a year after the demolition of the entire eastern side of Turua Street, residents of St Heliers are appalled that the Auckland Council is blocking efforts to protect the village.
‘After a year of going through the “correct channels” we are no further ahead’ says Sally Hughes, Chair of Save Our St Heliers, Inc. ‘We have made submissions, we have presented a survey of 1600 residents’ views to Council committees, and we have met with officials. The message from all of them is that nothing can be done. We have had enough’ she said.
Residents fear that Council inaction will lead to the total destruction of the character of the village centre, as one by one the small-scale shops are torn down to make way for inappropriately large commercial developments. They plan to give voice to their outrage by protesting the opening of a new building at 387 Tamaki Drive, this Friday 11th and Saturday 12th of November.
Known by locals as the “Maheke Monster”, this concrete tilt-slab edifice towers 12.5 metres, over the village, in stark contrast to existing character. This development symbolises how Council favours developers over community wishes, residents have said.
Margaret King, a longtime resident of St Heliers, summed it up. ‘In 2009 the Council promised the community that the St Heliers Centre Plan would protect and enhance St Heliers. Look at what has happened since! This ugly building does not belong here,’ says Ms King. ‘We want to show the Council we are well aware of their failings when it comes to the preservation of unique character and built heritage. Residents in communities Auckland-wide should refuse to turn a blind eye to the destruction of their communities’.
With over 400 members, Save Our St Heliers was formed after the demolition of three Spanish Mission and two Victorian cottages in Turua Street in January this year. The Society took the case to the Environment Court, aided by National Business Review founder Barry Coleman. Judge Laurie Newhook gave no weight to public opinion and the demolition went ahead. Members of SOS have been working with the Orakei Local Board in an attempt to change Council processes and to afford more protection to the remaining character of the village centre. However, Council staff are adamant that nothing can be changed until the new Auckland Plan comes into effect in approximately five years time. ‘This will be too late’ says Sally Hughes. ‘The village we know and love will be gone by then’.
Demonstration details – Friday 11th and Saturday 12th from 10am opposite 387 Tamaki Drive St Heliers.