DCC plans to address 'demolition by neglect'

Older buildings, including the empty former Furniture Court building (left) and the empty former Tai Ping restaurant building (right). Photos by Peter McIntosh.
Older buildings, including the empty former Furniture Court building (left) and the empty former Tai Ping restaurant building (right). Photos by Peter McIntosh.
The Dunedin City Council is planning to target the owners of dilapidated heritage buildings in the city to stop ''demolition by neglect'' and encourage ''unco-operative'' owners to fix up their properties.

It says it has put ''substantial effort'' into encouraging the re-use of heritage buildings, using ''carrots rather than sticks'', but it is now searching for ways to take a more active approach in using powers it has.

It will next week consider its options for dealing with such building owners, from better using the Building Act in relation to insanitary buildings, to creating a register, or, at the most extreme, imposing financial penalties.

The Otago Chamber of Commerce says the proposal is something it will ''follow with interest'', as owners are often dealing with the economic reality of buildings that lose money.

A report by acting urban design team leader Glen Hazelton to Tuesday's planning and regulatory committee meeting said preserving the city's architectural inheritance and character was a key part of the city's goal of being one of the best small cities in the world.

The council had put plenty of work into helping owners.

''However, not all owners are so positively predisposed or respond positively to incentivisation.''

Dr Hazelton said in the report it was sometimes argued demolishing undermaintained buildings and replacing them with open-air car parks had positive effects for amenity and parking.

But over the long term those spaces did not look good or encourage economic activity.

Of the heritage buildings granted consent for demolition since 2009 - the Garrison Hall in Port Chalmers, the Brocklebanks building in South Dunedin, 372-398 Princes St, the Butterworth building, Bank of Australasia, the Barrons Building, the N. and E. S. Patterson Building, and the Dainty Dairy - only Brocklebanks had been replaced by a new building.

The Rattray St and Princes St buildings clearly showed ''the results of insufficient maintenance and the cycle of decline''.

''Although the area is within a townscape precinct, the existing protections and management of heritage buildings have proved insufficient to halt or reverse the decline.''

Dr Hazelton's report raised the possibility of financial penalties for building owners neglecting properties, but said there were disadvantages.

Instead, it suggested developing a register of at-risk heritage buildings to provide an inventory of sites, and track them annually.

As well, legal advice showed there might be potential for a stronger approach to Building Act provisions relating to insanitary buildings.

Those could be used for ''a more proactive approach'', and ''potentially a notice requiring work''.

Yesterday, he said he expected ''a lively debate'' on the issue on Tuesday.

Dr Hazelton said a register was something the council would put together.

Building owners' names would not be included, though the information was available on the council's rating database.

The list was not intended to be a ''name and shame'' list.

Instead, it would highlight the buildings that needed work done, and possibly lead to positive moves to fix them up.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said along with legislation on earthquake-proofing, any new rules could force owners to walk away from their buildings with no economic return.

''That's where we get demolition by neglect.''

Mr Christie said the city needed to find a way to grow the economy so buildings would be re-used.

However, there was ''no magic wand'' to make that happen.

Lion spokeswoman Judy Walter said Lion owned the former Furniture Court building next to the Speight's Brewery in Rattray St and had no plans to redevelop it.

Lion had not been contacted by the council about the building and would not comment until it had, she said.

Property owner Lincoln Darling said the council could issue fines up to $200,000 for non-compliance but it was often difficult to legislate, especially when there were ''economic issues involved and a raft of different landlords''.


The options

• Change District Plan to encourage better management of heritage buildings.
• Stricter application of Building Act laws.
• Develop bylaws with minimum maintenance standards.
• Develop a heritage at-risk register.
• Financial penalties.
• Do nothing.

Demolition of neglect effects

• Erodes heritage streetscapes.
• Reduces quality of Dunedin's ''look and feel''.
• Presents appearance of ''city in decline''.
• Promotes vandalism and crime.
• Risk to public safety.
• Reduces value of neighbouring buildings.
• Discourages investment in area.
• Encourages businesses to move from area.

Source: Dunedin City Council

Excerpt from the report

Excerpt from the report


Yes – retention and reuse of heritage

buildings has positive sustainability outcomes

in the reduction of demolition waste and re

use of embodied energy


Do as I say not as I do should apply here .If it didn't apply then we would still have Carisbrook

Where does the responsibility lie?

It is all too easy to blame the DCC for failures on the part of commercial property owners to maintain their buildings. Why should the DCC i.e the ratepayer, have to subsidise all commerciual property owners to protect their investment? 

Planning & Regulatory Committee meeting

Tuesday's meeting to discuss what can only be considered a 'punitive' report - presenting information as sought by Cr Benson-Pope - will be held in the Edinburgh Room, Municipal Chambers, starting at 1pm.

Building owners might like to be present for the discussion and any consequential voting by councillors who, in general, seem to know more about cycle paths.

Meantime, please read the report and make up your own minds on the likely (expensive) stoush ahead if any of the report's more surprising paragraphs are allowed to be given legal effect in the times ahead.

In my view, the reasoning and politics behind the report are suspect.

[Report] Options to Address Demolition by Neglect and Degradation of the Dunedin Streetscape

You have to have tenants

You have to have tenants to be able to collect rent and maybe the owners of these buildings are conditionally averse to doing maintenance and structural work. No one in their right mind will be throwing good money after bad on old tired buildings. All very well having a building that is deemed of heritage value but you need money and lots of it to maintain it and do the structural work. If you have to borrow then the banks will require a business plan which will include signed up tenants for when it is completed. Very difficult to do when the city is in economic decline. Just look at the old post office and that is a building worthy of upgrading. Zealsteel owners have also done a marvellous job of renovating the old warehouses but the DCC haven't exactly been clamouring to help them achieve their goals. It was only after some bad publicity courtesy of Laurie and the ODT that planning changes were made to enable a feasible project along with a lot of the owners' blood sweat and tears

Dunedin heritage

Dunedin Dave - look about you, Dunedin is full of nineteenth and twentieth century buildings constructed of brick. You'll have read about the buildings and the brick factories, and sampled books and magazines that foster appreciation for Dunedin's distinctive cityscape. Of further interest, suggest you visit Built in Dunedin, a blog by architectural historian David Murray; and Upright! Supporting Dunedin's Built Heritage, a page co-authored by Kari Wilson-Allan and David Murray. The work to maintain these resources is all voluntary and the content is par excellence.

Lead from the front

As other writers have commented, the DCC is no paragon of virtue when it comes to 'demolition by neglect'. A good example would be the building that the Fortune Theatre is in. From what I have heard the foundation on the Stuart Street side is sodden and mould is growing on the inside of the building. Apart from the effects on the long term future of the building surely the tenants health must also be at risk. 


Not only are you drawing a very long bow, you are being inconsistent. In your original comment you said 'replicated from Europe' and now you say 'based from what I can tell'. The lack of understanding of the words 'replica' and 'replicate' is not helpfully supporting your narrow view of heritage.


porka, you sound confused by pork belly muttering. Important to notice building condition on rent collection days. No-one wants their buildings to fall down in a townscape precinct, yes? Is cyclical maintenance and staged structural work something someone might be conditionally averse to? Is it possible to learn something from the free annual heritage workshops hosted by the city council? Or by talking to appropriately experienced members of the local property investors association? Seeking free professional advice - ahead of time - that's always available from Heritage New Zealand in conjunction with that available from the city council? So to ensure ownership is marked by diligence and responsibility, and remains duly cognisant of risks to the health and safety of commercial tenants and general public?

Without lines of questioning, for example, the public couldn't know reasons why the 'new' Rattray St off-street parking area still lacks sympathetic screening, a built elevation or landscaping to street, as might be expected in the district plan listed townscape precinct. Or why a premises suffered fire or wasn't successfully tenanted. And why a recent frontage to more parking in High Street in the Exchange is mostly unconvincing and out of place, across the street from a fabulously, proudly redeveloped joined pair of large privately-owned heritage buildings.



Sorry to disagree, but the wooden homes here are based from what I can tell on 17th century European building designs which were then wooden in design with a single woodfire and no heating in any other room. Whilst the rest of Europe and the world have moved on to double brick, triple glazing, central heating in all rooms, thermaly insulated buildings, sadly here in NZ we have stuck to the same old wooden framed, bit of wall insulation, bit of paper, bit of gib, aluminium framed condensating windows, oh and one heatpump in the lounge and none in the bedroom designs. The only change is that builders now use power tools to build them. So sorry, knock down them all and build new remains my mantra.


Brocklebanks described the demolition consent process regarding their condemned building as a nightmare. The owner of the Rattray Street buildings was of the same opinion. That land was badly needed by the adjoining business to enhance its customer services thereby serving a very useful purpose by keeping buses and cars off the street aiding traffic management, something that the DCC often makes mandatory for new building projects .

I am merely a lay person but to a mere mortal like myself it looks a hell of a lot better than what was there. If you feel that the new design is so bad then why did they gain consent? Surely then the DCC is partly at fault there too.

Yes NZ

Not at all. The only cultures not in 'that box' would be perhaps nomads or cultures without more than temporary buildings. Wooden villas are not replicated from Europe. You only need basic observation skills to work that one out, though they are of course influenced by European design. It's not for us to start ranking the value of the history of different cultures, and to decide some aren't worth bothering about. Good grief. 

King Edward front and forward

A facade is a false front. Why not replicate the real front?

Take the fifth amendment

I abhor remonstrative lists of alleged defaulters. It evokes a Committee on Un Municipal Activity. I gather the District Plan overrides laws of individual ownership(?).

Disappointments in King Edward St

Good grief, porka. You say Brocklebanks is a very good example of replicating a facade. Wrong! This is a very poor facade design to King Edward St. It is clearly not replication. The replacement building is now used as a local teaching example of how not to do contextual design - in fact, 'design' is the wrong word for the current 'dilemma' of a structure. Architectural and contextual design is a higher art than has been lavished on the street presence. The lines of the building are wrong, and the handling of its bulk, scale and proportion as well as fabric and openings verges on the amateur. The whole delivery has poor fit with the immediate and wider townscape precinct. A disappointment.

Secondly, porka, you mention unacceptable procrastination on the part of council. This is a misrepresentation of the facts, the process, the role of each party, the planning requirements, and the legal position. [Abridged]

But not NZ

"Virtualy all cultures" sums it up quite well. Here in NZ I would say we are of the 'not in that box' group as we dont have anything here in terms of historical value worth saving. Unless that is you include wooden built villas replicated from Europe as a model design to adopt. The shame of it is we still build homes that are no more than sheds with gib on them that include insulation top and bottom a bit in the walls and the hardy woodburner in one room and no heating in any of the others. Knock down all the old rubbish and make new buildings that will stand the test of time. Dunedin survives on students alone and I am sure not one of them moves here to study for the architecture!

Hard to justify

The only comment made that was worth it and pragmatic given the state of these buildings are the ones made by John Christie. Very hard to justify spending money on these old  buildings when at present there are virtually non existant opportunies in Dunedin's climate of economic decline. If they were salvagable then I am sure they would never have been let go, but they are simply unsuitable for today's requirements. Knock them down and replicate facades where feasible. Brocklebanks is a very good example of replicating a facade. Pity they were banging thier head on a brick wall when dealing with the council. Time means money that is not always there for the business owner, and a year taken to get a demolition consent for Brocklebanks is simply unacceptable procrastination on the part of council.


Where was I in 1980? In my cradle. Your views on heritage are outdated. Pretty much all cultures have a built history of value, and the relative antiquity of each is completely beside the point. Dunedin's is particularly rich, with good recent examples of adaptive reuse. The important question here is how effective the addition of sticks might be to a modest supply of carrots. The article also points out that pulling down an old commercial building in Dunedin does not typically result in a shiny new one - it's more likely to get you a car park.

DCC red tape

The rights of property owners come into this. As does the high faluting desire DCC has for adding red tape unnecessarily to business concerns. And yes, the council needs to look in its own backyard first - at its asset list, not all heaven and delight there! [Abridged]

Demolition by demand

Just knock them all down and rebuild it new. Why this obsession with such ugly, old and outdated buildings? New Zealand's love for building so young is funny to me. They are poorly built and need to come down. And please don't give me the heritage argument - where were you all in the 70s and 80s when they built such eyesores as the library and other blocks?

Dilapidated heritage buildings

This is rich coming from the DCC. Lets remember what happened to Chingford House. Gifted to the City of Dunedin, who let it go to rack and ruin, and it was then demolished as it was considered a risk.

A broader register is needed

Perhaps the DCC should develop a register of heritage buildings available for reuse (complete with floor areas, available services and heritage caveats), so potential tenants/investors know what the city has to offer when looking for a nice old building as a base. Dilapidated buildings could be included on the list, but "red-flagged" as being in disrepair. That'd be a tool that'd help encourage repair (by monitoring tenant/investor interest in all potentially useable heritage buildings), encourage reuse, and grow the economy, rather than be a tool to simply name and shame.  

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