General Government – Dept. of Justice – Landcorp

During the years that Braemar was owned by the Government, the apartments were administered by the Public Trust. The Auckland Architectural Association objected strongly to the plans to demolish Courtville and the assocation spokesman was quoted as saying one of the “few delightful parts of the central city will be destroyed” if new Supreme Courts are built opposite the present Court.(51)(52)However, as Braemar was to be demolished, very little maintenance was done and the state of deterioration increased. One resident, Sally Martin, had continuing problems with rats resulting from this neglect.(53) The Mayor of Auckland, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, was calling for the Justice Dept to rehouse the tenants in the event of the flats being demolished(54) and the Auckland City Council shared the tenants concerns.(55)Even the Auckland Trades`Council was asked to stop the demolition from taking place.(56)

In 1978, Radnor in Waterloo Quadrant was demolished after having been condemned by the City Council. The tenants of Courtville were fearful that the Courtville buildings would also suffer the same fate.(57) The Auckland City Council Development Committee then issued an invitation to the Minister of Housing Mr Holland, to come and have a first hand look at Auckland’s housing problems.(58) By this time, the owners of (now) Westminster Court (then part of Courtville) were concerned that being associated by name to the “condemned buildings” had given a stigma to their building.(59)

Meanwhile the City Community Committee was assisting the “save Courtville” campaign by organising a street festival in Parliament Street.(60) The Auckland University Students Association magazine, Craccum quoted The Auckland City Council’s Community Development, Housing and Property Committee chairman, Mr Gordon Barnaby, as saying “objections to the designation on the Courtville site as reviewed in the district scheme may make it more difficult for the Government to demolish the flats”(61) Public feeling was also with the tenants. As Dinah Holman of the Auckland Star wrote in June 1978, “The Courtville buildings have historic value and architectural merit – a grandiose way of saying they’ve been there a long time, we like them, let’s keep them.”(62)

The Justice Department was approached by the leader of the city community committee, Mrs Linda Daly-Peoples, who suggested two alternative sites for the Supreme Court extensions(63) and the response came back that other sites could be considered.(64)(65)Meanwhile, the buildings continued to decay for lack of repairs and maintenance, with a decision on the fate of the buildings likely to take another five years.(66) In a submission to the Auckland City Council, residents said “ Courtville is a highly successful, integrated community of students, retired folk and workers on a historical site surrounded by the old Governor-General’s house, Constitution Hill and the University ”(67) and that “ the demolition of the Courtville Buildings would leave many people homeless and remove one of the remaining cultural assets of the city ”.(68)The City Community Committee continued to object to the demolition on two counts “ the social loss of 33 badly needed inner city units, which they claim would cost $1,500,000 to replace, and the architectural value of the buildings, for the committee believes that to provide apartments of a comparable standard and elegance would never again be possible ”(69)

In John Stacpoole’s papers lodged with the Auckland Institute and Museum Library is a report from the Ministry of Works and Development to ‘ALL MEMBERS OF THE MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE” dated 12 th Nov 1980 which advises that the Minister had agreed to uplift the designation of Supreme Court purposes on the Courtville land and allow it to revert to the underlying zone. The Minister also agreed that the land be kept for the present and future uses of the High Court. The Ministerial Advisory Committee had recommended that the land be retained for High Court carparking.

A “confidential” letter dated 5 th February 1980 from the Auckland City Council Dept of Works to the Acting Director of Planning and Social Development had this to say about Braemar:

Courtville Flats

At your request, the City Building Surveyor and Design Engineer – Structural, have investigated this complex of buildings in relation to fire and egress requirements and structural upgrading in terms of Section 301A of the Municipal Corporations Act. The following is a précis of the reports prepared.

It should be noted that the reports are based on visual surveys of the buildings only, and that the exact extent to which upgrading would be necessary can only be determined after extensive testing and analysis. No detailed plans are held by Council.

History:

At the time the Justice Department took over the buildings comprising this complex – Courtville 1, 2 and 3, viz 7,9 and 15 Parliament Street, there were outstanding requisitions to upgrade them. Because of the temporary life expectancy, prior to Supreme Court development, it was agreed that the existing situation could continue with some upgrading being carried out by the Ministry of Works and Development. If building life is to be further extended, and if the buildings require licensing under the Act by the local authority, the present standard is not considered acceptable.

….

Building No. 3 – Courtville Annex : 15 Parliament Street

This is a two and three storeyed apartment building with timber floors of unknown fire rating, supported on masonry walls, and built in the late 1800’s.

Fabric:

Apart from a settlement crack at the back, this appears to be in a reasonable condition although the mortar joints would probably be weak due to age.

Fire/Egress:

Timber floors have unknown fire rating with two apartments per floor. Each apartment has alternate egress which made these acceptable.

Structural:

A visual classification indicates that these buildings are subject to the requirements of Section 301A of the Act with a life evaluation of 14 years.

Strengthening would probably consist of converting the floors and roof to effective diaphragms by the addition of a plywood layer and shear connections to the walls. The walls would probably also require strengthening, and the foundations should be tied together.

Particular hazards which require early removal or strengthening are the chimneys and the front gable.

…..

The survey has not included access to each flat to survey any substandard feature within a flat or its service facilities or any maintenance upgrading that may be required.(70)

Of course, there were differing points of view from those who wanted to retain the three Courtville buildings. The judiciary were very keen to demolish the old court building and so were anxious for the matter to go ahead quickly, and it didn’t matter to them if the Courtvilles were a casualty in the process. The Auckland City Councils designation of the land as solely residential was not universally popular. In the law magazine Northern News it was quoted “ This move caused considerable dissatisfaction within the profession. The NZ Herald’s editorial comment in July 1979 was to the point: whether the Government – and, for that matter, the City of Auckland – likes it or not, the work of the Supreme Court has vastly outgrown its accommodation to a point where overcrowding and physical disorganisation challenge its very efficiency.”(71)

Still the issue removed unresolved and the Courtville tenants continued to feel anxious about losing their lifestyle. An article in the New Zealand Womens’ Weekly of December 22 nd 1986 interviewed a tenant in “ Courtville House – the smallest building – fashion editor Sandra Peacock lives there with daughter Tammy….Sandra, who loves the Courtville character and atmosphere, says “ This is a beautiful street to live on….we should keep the heart of the city alive…rather than making it purely commercial. I don’t think inner city accommodation should be expensive ”.(72)

A group of interested tenants at Courtville had by this time already formed themselves into an action group called the Courtville Association, for the purposes of saving the buildings from demolition. Successful lobbying by a number of groups had the effect of the Historic Places Trust placing a protection order on the Corner and Middle Courtville buildings and the City Council changed the zoning to allow only residential development on any of the Courtville sites. The zoning change meant that the site was no longer useful to the Justice Department for court extensions and in 1986 the Department declared the land surplus to requirements and requested that the buildings be sold. In 1987 the then Minister of Conservation, Helen Clark, issued a protection order for the two larger Courtville buildings.(73) The buildings could not be knocked down, however the Justice Department was still keen to be rid of them and requested Landcorp to auction them off.(74)(75)

Fundraising efforts continued by the Courtville Association to find money to fund the battle, and a major contribution to funds was made as a result of an auction of 27 donated art works. All the works were impressions by the artists of the Courtville buildings, by artists such as Don Binney and Pat Hanley!(76) Meanwhile, the Historic Places Trust upgraded their classification on Corner and Middle Courtvilles to “B ”(77)This was not much consolation to the tenants and admirers of Braemar but at least in was some support. Landcorp was still determined to sell the buildings. The branch manager was quoted as saying the property was “ with us for the purpose of selling”(78) and the property was advertised for sale by auction to be held 2pm Wednesday 21 st October 1987.(79)

The Courtville Association took Landcorp to the High Court to hold the Government to its written assurances that tenants of more than 12 months standing could have first option to buy their apartments. The High Court took two days to decide in favour of the tenants and negotiations with Landcorp began.(80) The costs of fighting to save the buildings were high. In November 1987 the residents were reported as being $8000 out of pocket in their courtroom fight to stop the buildings being sold.(81) The protection notice taken out by the Historic Places Trust for the two larger Courtvilles prompted them to interview Helen Clark (now Prime Minister of NZ) for the March 1988 issue of their monthly magazine . “ Helen Clark ..can see the value of preserving historic sites and buildings for ..intangible benefits… those interested in saving NZs historic heritage should justify public spending on historic preservation on the grounds that preserved sites, buildings and precincts will make New Zealand a more attractive destination for tourists”(82) The campaign to save the Courtvilles was entirely privately funded.

In May 1989, Courtville Apartments Limited was formed by those members of the Courtville Association who wished to purchase their apartments and several other investors who were invited to join. In September 1989 Courtville Apartments Limited purchased Corner Courtville, Middle Courtville and Braemar from the Government.(83)

 

 

 

 

(51) Auckland Star September 11 th a975, “Courts will “destroy” unique city building” 
(52) NZ Herald, September 11 th 1975, “Architects Plead to Save Flats” 
(53) New Zealand Herald , March 7 th 1978. “Wanted :Pied Piper for Block of Flats”.
(54) NZ Herald, April 4 th 1978, “Moral Obligation Over Flats” 
(55) NZ Herald , April 7 th 1978 “Courtville Appeal by Council” 
(56) NZ Herald, May 14 th 1978, “Green Ban Pleas for Flats” 
(57) NZ Herald, May 13 th 1978, “Demolition Move Prompts Fears” 
(58) NZ Herald, May 18 th 1978, “Come and See Invitation” 
(59) NZ Herald, May 24 th 1978, “Real Courtville Here to Stay” 
(60) Auckland Star, May 27 th 1978 “Festivities in Parliament Street” NZ Herald May 29 th 1978 ’Dancing In Street to Push Case” 
(61) Craccum June 12 th 1978 “ Court Courts Courtville” 
(62) Auckland Star June 9 th 1978 “Just Solution Wanted for Supreme Court Site” 
(63) Auckland Star, May 16 th 1978, “ Battle of the Courts”. 
(64) Auckland Star July 7 th 1978 “Saving Courtville’s up to Council Now” 
(65) 8 O’Clock July 15 th 1978 “Planners to Discuss Courtville” 
(66) NZ Herald July 18 th 1978 “Courtville Flat Residents Fear Decay” 
(67) Auckland Star October 30 th 1978 “Resident Battle for Courtville” 
(68) NZ Herald October 30 th 1978 ‘Bid to Keep Courtville” 
(69) NZ Listener January 26 th 1980 “ No, justice” v (70) A confidential letter from the Auckland City Council Department of Works to The Acting Director of Planning and Social Development dated February 5 th 1980. Copy of the letter in file MS1633 John Stacpoole papers at the Auckland Institute and Museum Library.
(71) Northern News No 7 1982 “Where and When?” 
(72) NZ Womens Weekly December 22 nd 1986 “ Courtville Under Threat..Again” 
(73) Auckland Star, “Historic Buildings Can Only be Preserved by Money”. 
(74) NZ Herald January 27 th 1987 “No Directive On Sale of Courtville” 
(75) Metro No.68 Feb 1987 “Dwelling on the Past” 
(76) NZ Womans Weekly March 9 th 1987 “Scene and Heard” 
(77) Auckland Star March 27 th 1987 “Courtville Reassured” 
(78) NZ Herald June 18 th 1987 “Future of Old Apartments Still Uncertain” 
(79) NZ Herald September 26 th 1987 “On behalf of Land Corporation Limited………” 
(80) NZ Herald October 17 th 1987 “Judge Stops Sale of Courtville” 
(81) Sunday Star November 8 th 1987 COURTVILLE Progress threatens dignified elegance” 
(82) Historic Places March 1988 “A ‘New Deal’ for Historic Preservation in NZ” 
(83) NZ Herald ,September 21 st 1989 , “The Sweet Taste of Victory