Who’s right?

The Dom Post reports:

A Wellington man watched in tears as demolished his historic Owhiro Bay bach on Monday morning.

Duncan Mackay’s bach is one of five that have perched on the hill at Mestanes Bay, on the wild south coast of Wellington, near Red Rocks, for as long as 100 years.

He bought his Heritage New Zealand-listed Stevenson bach for $10,000 in March 2012, lived in it for two years, and was renovating it to live in and, one day, pass on to his 13-year-old daughter.

But on Friday, the council told him it was going to demolish the bach on Monday, claiming his $40,000 of renovations meant it was no longer entitled to be considered a heritage building.

On Monday morning, Mackay drove around the coast to see his bach being torn apart, the roof gone, men in high-vis jackets breaking down the interior.

“This is crushing me,” he said as he looked on, tears in his eyes.

“I wanted  to pass it down through the family … Now I’m homeless, I’m literally sleeping on a friend’s couch.”

You read this part of the story and you think the Council has acted appallingly. But you then read on:

Not much of the original materials of Stevenson’s bach remained, but Mackay said he had been in regular contact with Heritage NZ and was replacing everything so it looked “absolutely, totally the same”, down to its pine-green corrugated-iron exterior and the angle of the roof.

“I’ve done what I was told to do. I think this is council squashing the small guy and destroying a piece of south-coast heritage.”

But the council, which owns the land, said the work bore no resemblance to the heritage bach.

“He did have possession of a heritage bach on the site, and he demolished the heritage bach and now is illegally building a new bach on the site,” council spokesman Richard MacLean said.

“We are having it demolished because it’s on public land and we are the landowner, and he’s illegally building on public land…”

Mackay would not be compensated, MacLean confirmed.

The other Mestanes Bay bach owners, who had also made significant renovations, should not be concerned because the council still considered their properties “heritage baches”.

“They are still substantially original buildings ,” MacLean said. “He [Mackay] has demolished his bach, that’s what that big pile of broken wood is.”

He said Mackay was not homeless, as he lived elsewhere in Wellington. The bach was a building site and was uninhabitable anyway.

I’m not sure the Council is in the wrong here. There is a difference between renovation and replacement.

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