Devonport looks set for another heritage battle, as the land including Devonport’s historic church St Paul’s (on Mt Victoria), the historic cemetery next to St Paul’s and the church hall is put up for sale.
Church officials of the Northern Presbetry applied to the Presbyterian Property Trustees to sell the land, believing the Trustees were the owners of the land.
However, both the church and cemetery are listed as Category A historic places, and are protected under the District Plan. For any buyer to make use of the site would therefore require that historic status to be removed.
The Speculator understands that Governor George Grey gifted the land as a crown grant on 2 July 1862 to the local churches for use as a cemetery. This area was used as a cemetery until 1890, at which point it was agreed between the borough council at the time and the local trustees of the Mt Victoria Cemetery that the land should be permanently under the control of the borough council.
The Church faces a number of hurdles in attempting to sell the land, although it appears to be unaware of the legal implications of the move, as it has already listed the property with Harcourts in Takapuna and intends to put the land up for sale this Friday.
Under the Historic Places Act, any site pre-1900 is considered an archaeological site and comes under its protection. Additionally, Section 44(a) of the Burial and Cremations Act 1964 prohibits the sale of closed cemeteries. As mentioned, the site is also listed under the District Plan.
Beyond the issue of heritage is a more macabre issue; the bodies currently located in that part of the cemetery would have to be moved should any development go ahead. The Speculator understands that relatives of the deceased have been contacted by local resident and self-described “graveyard watchdog” Gail Lyons, informing them of this possibility, should the land eventually be sold.
Local heritage activist Claudia Page has alerted councillor Sandra Coney to the issue, asking her to clarify the process required to change the status of a listed site to one that could be developed.
Want to make sure you keep up to date with developments as soon as they happen on this story? Subscribe to our daily email alert below. No spam.