Damage to historic building earns fine
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.