Vogel family descendants have gone to court to try to overturn a decision that denied them an uncontested opportunity to reclaim their grandparents’ Lower Hutt home.
They’ve been trying for years to get it for free or greatly discounted.
Jocelyn Vogel and husband James gifted the house to the Crown in 1965, according to Heritage New Zealand, due to fears it would be subdivided after they died, but their grandsons fear that is exactly what would be likely to happen unless it was returned to them.
The home was used as the Prime Minister’s official Wellington residence for about 13 years, but is now considered surplus, so Tim and Geoff Vogel are claiming “emotional hardship”, and want it returned without having to compete for it.
Emotional hardship if they can’t get a $5 million home for free. Yep that is emotionally hard.
The Crown decided to get rid of it in 2013, “on the basis of it being under-utilised [and] considered expensive to maintain”, according to the Department of Internal Affairs.
A pity as it is a beautiful house. Had many good times there.
The property was offered to the Vogel Charitable Trust and the Wellington SPCA – both beneficiaries of Jocelyn Vogel’s estate – in January 2016 for $415,000, which was said to be the value of the improvements.
Jocelyn Vogel’s grandsons, Tim and Geoff Vogel, appealed against the decision in a bid to regain the home in which they were raised, on the grounds of “emotional hardship”.
At the High Court in Wellington on Monday the lawyer for the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Rachel Roff, said it was accepted and acknowledged that the Vogels had an emotional attachment to the land, but not to the point where it met the threshhold of hardship under the relevant law.
They haven’t lived there for at least 53 years.
The key thing is what Jocelyn Vogel wrote in her will. If she wanted it to be returned to the family in case of no longer being needed as a ministerial house, then she could have written that in her will.
The brothers’ lawyer, Richard Fowler, QC, said some umbrage was taken to the suggestion that there was anything contrived about the emotional hardship claimed.
It was not faux or fake, he said.
Of course not. Hell I’d be emotionally distraught if I could get a $5 million for free or cheap, and missed out.
He quoted a statement by Tim Vogel about the family’s association with the area of the Hutt Valley that went back 160 years, that his family built the house and no other private family had lived at the property.
The house is not 160 years old though. It was built in 1933. So it was occupied by the Vogels for just 32 years and been a Crown House for around 50 years.