The Harcourts Buildling: John Daniel’s Submission To The Notified Resource Consent Hearing

The following is the text of the personal Submission made by John Daniels.



Evidence of John Daniels in support of submission by Historic Places Wellington Incorporated in opposition to the application.

  •  May name is John Richard Sinclair Daniels.  I am Chairman of Historic Places Wellington, which was set up in 2011 to further heritage protection in the Wellington region.  I have participated actively in many aspects of heritage protection since about 1960.  I was Director of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust from 1971 to 1988, and held senior heritage management positions with the Department of Conservation from 1988 to 1998.  In a voluntary capacity, I have held office in a range of historical and heritage bodies over those years.
  • Historic Places Wellington is an independent incorporated society. We have no formal connection with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, despite the similarity in name.
  • I would like to call Deborah Cranko of Cranko Architects, and Peter Dowell of Heritage Property Management in support of our submission.
  • Harcourt’s is not just any old building.  Its significance is recognised by its registration as a Category One historic place under the Historic Places Act 1993.  That Act defines Category One as “places of special or outstanding historical or cultural significance or value”.  Harcourt’s was first recognised by the Historic Places Trust in 1981 when it was classified C under the then system. This was raised to B in 1990, becoming Register Category One under the 1993 Act.
  • Category One registration requires passing the test of special or outstanding historical or cultural significance or value. It follows that this high status is conferred only sparingly and in special cases. There is only a limited number of these in central Wellington. Category One buildings therefore demand a high degree of attention to their protection and preservation.
  • The building is included on the Heritage List in the Wellington City District Plan.
  • I believe that the historical, architectural and townscape merits of this building have been recognised by submitters for the applicant and objectors alike, so I will not traverse these in full again. I will, however, emphasise two aspects.
  • The first is the streetscape and townscape values.  Nearby is the Harbour City Building (formerly DIC); these two form a coherent and pleasing architectural statement. Further north along the east side of Lambton Quay are the Kirkcaldie’s Building façade, the former State Insurance Building, and the former Public Trust building.  Looking south along the same side are the MLC  building and the former Bank of New Zealand buildings and, on the western side, the Whitcoulls building façade and the three former insurance company buildings.  All of these represent an important streetscape of commercial buildings from earlier periods of the city, ranging from around 1900 to the late 1930s.
  • The second point concerns the foyer area of Harcourt’s.  Earlier evidence suggested that there are few original features left in the foyer.  This is most misleading.  The marble walls are original and very striking, as are the staircase and lift doors.  The light fittings, if not original, are of high quality and just right for the period.
  • If the present application is granted, the implications for other Category One heritage buildings are serious.  This is not so much as legal precedent, but in terms of perceptions among owners, tenants, local authorities and the public generally that important heritage buildings can be dispensed with if inconvenient to owners.
  • If full demolition is granted this is likely to have a profound effect on heritage not only in Wellington, but also in sending a signal to heritage building owners around New Zealand, that it is acceptable to demolish our architectural heritage, thus destroying our “Sense of Place”.
  • Historic Places Wellington accepts that public risk and safety considerations are paramount in the inner city.  We note that the building is subject to an Earthquake Prone Building notice under section 124 of the Building Act 2004.  Strengthening and other remedial works are essential if the building is to have a future.
  • The Harcourt’s building has significant issues in regard to air rights and possible future development of the building, caused by the redevelopment of the neighbouring HSBC Building.  Substantial value has been transferred from the Harcourt’s building to the HSBC building, thus making any development by a new buyer of the Harcourt’s building problematic.
  • We acknowledge the efforts made by the parties who have looked into strengthening and possible reuse of the building.  These efforts have been made more difficult by negative factors described above, and by unnecessarily restrictive parameters given to consultants.  These matters will be addressed further by Deborah Cranko.
  • Historic Places Wellington understands that we are in difficult times, and that building owners need to make decisions and move forward as soon as possible.  We realise that compromise will often be required to save at least some of our most important heritage buildings.  Those compromises should aim at preserving, if not all, then as much as possible of the significant fabric of these buildings.
  • We need to ensure that the benefits of our heritage are shared with future generations, and that the city can grow and develop at the same time.






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