Pre-Christmas, things appear to be moving fast on Erskine College. Last week, the Save Erskine College Trust (SECT) was given an interim enforcement order by the Environment Court against developer The Wellington Company, the owner of the college. This means that the company is prevented from carrying out any of its proposed works, as part of its $30 million redevelopment of the site, without the written consent of SECT, under section 193 of the Resource Management Act 1991.
The Dominion Post is saying that it is a last minute spanner in the works, but actually it can’t have been a surprise, since SECT holds a (rather unusual) Heritage Order over the property. Cassels, owner of the Wellington Company, is quoted in the article as saying that he expected that SECT would sign off on the work, saying ‘If they manage to slow down or lose the project, it would be a triple blue moon – how the hell would that happen? That would be a crazy day in Wellington, and I hope they don’t do it’.
Cassels and the Wellington Company had seven days to apply for the interim order to be set aside, which should due out today.
Meanwhile, Ben Schrader and Christine MacKay, representing Historic Places Wellington, have also written an op-ed about the dangers posed to heritage by the council’s new Special Housing Areas policy here. They use Erskine as an example of these risks. The Main Block of Erskine, which is slated for removal, they argue, ‘is of similar grandeur and construction to Victoria University’s Hunter Building, now fully earthquake strengthened and increasingly treasured by Wellingtonians. We believe the Main Block would be equally valued if restored and reused’.
I’m afraid that I can’t agree with deputy mayor Paul Eagle who said that rejection of the project would be another block to progress in Island Bay. Instead, the retention of the college main block and reverend mother’s garden will preserve the special nature of the site, and furthermore the special nature of Island Bay.
Apparently one third of the apartments have been pre-sold already, but there is much water under the bridge to go before they are ready to built yet.
Image by Wellynz, Public Domain, taken 2011