The slow rise of Wellington’s BNZ Centre came to represent the power of militant unions in the 1970s – and Con Devitt’s name would forever be associated with the protracted construction of the black monolith.
Myriad delays meant that, although the 103-metre-high building was designed in the late 1960s, it wasn’t occupied until 1984.
The Devitt-led Boilermakers’ Union claimed the exclusive right of its members to weld the structural steel, as industrial action added six years to the project.
Among the more memorable boilermakers’ stoppages was one prompted by union delegate “Black Jock” McKenzie’s dissatisfaction with his company-issue boots.
The industrial strife was so bad that New Zealand architects were deterred from designing future buildings in steel.
The BNZ Centre, now called the State Insurance Building, finally opened at a cost of $93 million – more than four times over budget.
The glory days for some on the left.