Dam­age to his­toric build­ing earns fine

The Dominion Post - - News - COURT RE­PORTER

Dam­age to the out­side of a her­itage-listed Welling­ton build­ing has cost its own­ers $69,000 in court.

Nag­inbhai Neil Ghe­lab­hai Pa­tel and Ganesh Su­per­an­nu­a­tion Fund bought the cen­tury-old Sir James El­liott House on Kent Ter­race in 2013 and be­gan to con­vert the prop­erty into apart­ments.

The his­toric build­ing had been the home of the Royal Aus­tralasian Col­lege of Sur­geons for 25 years.

Welling­ton City Coun­cil pros­e­cuted the own­ers, un­der the Re­source Man­age­ment Act and Build­ing Act, for con­vert­ing a com­mer­cial build­ing to res­i­den­tial with­out con­sent and for work done to the prop­erty’s ex­te­rior.

The build­ing is a cat­e­gory one his­toric place so its fa­cade can­not be al­tered with­out per­mis­sion.

Pa­tel and the com­pany pleaded guilty to the charges last year.

Pa­tel, who also owns Shal­i­mar Dairy in Aro Val­ley, was a share­holder in the com­pany.

Welling­ton Dis­trict Court judge Craig Thomp­son fined both par­ties $20,000 each on the re­source man­age­ment charge and $14,500 each for the Build­ing Act charge.

He said the dwelling was a Welling­ton land­mark and de­serv­ing of re­spect.

Pa­tel had in­stalled kitchens and bath­rooms in­side the ad­dress. Out­side, heat pump and gas units were erected on the build­ing.

Coun­cil in­spec­tors sub­se­quently is­sued an abate­ment no­tice. How­ever, fur­ther in­spec­tions showed these ad­di­tions were not re­moved and, in fact, ad­di­tional work had been un­der­taken.

The judge said warn­ing no­tices from the coun­cil were ig­nored. An ap­pli­ca­tion to the coun­cil for build­ing con­sents was re­jected as be­ing de­fi­cient.

‘‘I ac­cept that this is not a de­lib­er­ate de­mo­li­tion of a pro­tected fa­cade, but it was still done in the face of clear re­quire­ments for con­sent. There was an abate­ment no­tice and that has still not been com­plied with,’’ the judge said.

Pa­tel’s lawyer, Kevin Smith, said his client was a first-time of­fender who be­came caught up in an earth­quake strength­en­ing is­sue. He was told it could cost up to $800,000 to bring the build­ing up to code.

Smith said the dam­age was mi­nor and the struc­ture of the build­ing was not dam­aged.

Pa­tel said he had found work­ing with the coun­cil on the build­ing con­ver­sion and con­sent ap­pli­ca­tions to be very dif­fi­cult. Its con­sent process was ‘‘bloated, stren­u­ous, and in­ef­fi­cient’’.

‘‘De­vel­op­ers and con­sul­tants are be­com­ing frus­trated and this is hurt­ing, not help­ing, the cur­rent hous­ing short­age in Welling­ton.’’

Pa­tel felt harshly treated by the coun­cil but hoped in fu­ture he would be able to work with coun­cil staff in a pos­i­tive way.

The cen­tral Welling­ton build­ing was de­signed in 1913 by no­table ar­chi­tect Wil­liam Gray Young, who was president of the New Zealand Col­lege of Ar­chi­tects in the 1930s.

Gray was also re­spon­si­ble for de­sign­ing such build­ings as Knox Col­lege in Dunedin and Turn­bull House in Welling­ton.

He cre­ated El­liott House for a prom­i­nent Welling­ton sur­geon. Sir James El­liott oc­cu­pied the build­ing as his home, con­sult­ing prac­tice and surgery un­til he sold the ad­dress in 1960.

Af­ter the site was as­sessed as be­ing earth­quake prone in 2013, the Royal Aus­tralasian Col­lege staff moved out.

Sir James El­liott House on Welling­ton’s Kent Tce now stands empty af­ter its own­ers were pros­e­cuted for con­vert­ing the his­toric build­ing into apart­ments with­out the re­quired con­sents.

Neil Pa­tel has been fined for al­ter­ing the his­toric prop­erty with­out con­sent.

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