THE vast majority of heritage buildings in Invercargill should be demolished, Invercargill commercial property developer/owner Wayne Hill says.
There were 166 historic buildings in the city but only about 20 were worth saving, he said.
‘‘One hundred and forty-six should be bulldozed because we can’t afford [to save and restore them]. It would bankrupt the whole of Southland, let alone Invercargill.’’
Mr Hill, who is also a real estate agent, is the agent charged with selling the former Dee St maternity hospital and land on behalf of the Ministry of Health (MoH). The tender period closed on March 10. Mr Hill said, despite much interest in the property, there had not been any offers to purchase the hospital site.
‘‘There was a lot of interest but people were a bit frightened about the Category 1 historic listing. If it didn’t have that, it would have sold many times over. It would have been a very easy property to sell.’’
The remaining buildings which make up the former Dee St maternity hospital, the South Wing, Central Block and Porter’s Lodge, are protected by the Invercargill City Council (ICC) district plan and Heritage New Zealand (HNZ), previously the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
The property is thought to be the only collection of 19th century hospital buildings left in New Zealand.
Mr Hill said the land would be valued at between $1 million and $1.5m if it did not have the heritage buildings on it.
‘‘We need growth in the CBD. [HNZ] is holding Invercargill to ransom, as they are throughout New Zealand,’’ he said.
Invercargill City councillor Allan Arnold said renovating and earthquakestrengthening heritage buildings could be expensive.
Mr Arnold owns Buster Crabb, a restaurant housed in a Category 2 heritage-listed building on Dee St. He said he chose the site for the restaurant because he liked the look of heritage buildings.
His personal view was the City should try to retain as many heritage buildings as possible, but accepted in some circumstances it may not be realistic to do so.
‘‘I do like heritage buildings. Invercargill has a unique look, not seen in very many towns around New Zealand.’’
The council wanted to encourage business back into the CBD, so it would consider demolishing heritage buildings on a case-by-case basis depending on what the plans were for the property and the owner’s reasons for wanting to demolish it, he said.
However, he hoped new developments would be built in keeping with the look of the city, he said.
HNZ Otago Southland area manager Jonathon Howard said a Category 1 listing did not impose any regulations on an owner or prevent additions, alterations, partial or complete demolition, or introduce requirements for repair.
Being protected under the council’s district plan also did not prevent alterations or demolition but required the owners to prove the positive or adverse effects of what they proposed were reasonable, he said.
‘‘It is inevitable that in a particular set of circumstances an individual heritage building may not have a future and will be demolished. In that situation it is important to know that all reasonable alternatives to full demolition have been exhausted and investigate ways to mitigate the loss.’’
However, in the case of the former Dee St maternity hospital, which was considered an archaeological site, it was unlawful for any person to modify or destroy any part of the site without the prior authority of HNZ, he said.
Mr Hill said the MoH had now instructed him to contact those who had expressed an interest in the former Dee St maternity hospital to seek offers.
The property did not have a fixed price.