The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
August 20, 2014

Dunajtschik’s dangling dingleberries

Ancient Wellington property developer Mark Dunajtschik’s dilemma over the Harcourts building is in its final stages of legal action. I’d maintain that, while this is a tedious re-examination of all the evidence that has gone before, it is also one of the most important (in an architectural sense) cases that New Zealand faces, and will have important ramifications for the future of NZ’s past. And with the announcement today of his proposed sweetener / bribe / incredibly nice goodwill offer, then it makes the stakes even higher.

For those of you that haven’t heard, Dunajtschik is apparently now offering to donate $10million to help restore two iconic Wellington landmarks – $5m each to St Mary of the Angels and to St Gerard’s Monastry. That’s an offer of incredible generosity, and one that can’t be sneered at, despite what you may think of the Catholic church and their quagmire of worldwide pedophilia, and a knee jerk reaction by many is that the Catholic church have much money and they should simply spend it themselves.

But is this a real offer, or is it just grandstanding, and does it even have a place to be debated in the Harcourts debate? To me, Dunajtschik is simply barking up the wrong tree. The issue is, of course, incredibly complex, and yet at its heart it is quite simple: demolish the Harcourts building or restrengthen and restore? Mr D keeps saying that it is too expensive, too much in the too hard basket, and yet he has bought it all on himself. He has been a greedy, pushy, and fiscally imprudent developer – he developed the building next door, he put the cursed lift and stair core smack bang in the middle of the light well of the old Harcourts building, and he is the one who has caused it to be unlettable. He has proposed that the old building could be demolished, and then re-created in polystyrene overcoat in a facsimile of the original, although crucially, what he says he might do is not not part of the proposal. And to me, that is where his argument comes undone and falls to the ground like a pair of rumpled trousers.

Sorry, horrid visual there. Moving on…

Quite simply: D says the choice is that he must be allowed to demolish, or that he will leave the building there to rot for eternity, or until it falls down and kills people in the next big earthquake. Actually, I think that he is 100% wrong, and that legally, he should be thrown out on his skinny white arse.

Dunajtschik needs to stop offering dingleberries such as St Gerards or St Mary’s for the city to suck on, and man up to the fact that he is not offering a valid replacement for Harcourts. His current Resource Consent application is for the demolition of Harcourts, and it is this that he has spent millions debating, hiring local bulldogs to savage the legs of the Council’s expert witnesses. What he needs to do is to put in a Resource Consent application for what he is proposing to replace the Harcourts building with. It’s that simple. They will never want to say Yes to someone who simply wants to replace a heritage listed building with an empty section in the middle of the town, and a promise that he may build something on that site in the future.

What is a completely different story, is to say: what do you propose for the future? What is this future building, of which you speak? What heritage lookalike is it that you want, and how good or bad is the details of this polystyrene wall? Yes, the existing building has been an important part of Wellington’s heritage for the last almost hundred years, especially in shaping the city by virtue of its bulk and dominance on the street, but it has been hopelessly compromised by the insertion of MFAT’s stairwell in the light well and – well, I for one, would like to see what a 25storey tower would do to the city if the MFAT extension was built on as Dunajtschik obviously plans.

This problem has been completely brought about by the developer himself, and he has the power to resolve it as well. Let’s change the question from Demolish or nothing, to a different one: if so, then what?

greenwelly
20 - 08 - 14

I loved this statement from the Stuff story

“The judge also questioned whether the building was really separate from the adjoining 25-storey HSBC office tower, also owned by Dunajtschik, and which he wants to extend on to the Harcourts site.

There was agreement to retain the Harcourts building when consent was issued to build the HSBC tower, the HSBC lift tower was built inside what was the Harcourt building, and the judge asked whether it was part of the same property.

Dunajtschik’s lawyer, Con Anastasiou, insisted that, while the two buildings were both owned by Dunajtschik, and while part of the HSBC encroached on to the Harcourts site, they were “chalk and cheese” and were run separately.”

So I am presuming that that HSBC building is peying maket rent for the land on the harcourts site they use, ….

Lindsay
20 - 08 - 14

He seems confusingly to be trying to have it both ways:
“Dunajtschik was ready, willing and able to retain it [Harcourts] if he could secure a tenant. He had negotiated for months to secure a deal with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. “He is trying to find a use for a building that is currently a cadaver,” Anastasiou [his lawyer] said.

Pauline
20 - 08 - 14

As a young girl in Wellington in 1942 there were two severe earthquakes and I remember Manners Street was a mess but not Lambton Quay! can you do some research Maximus?

However Mr Dunajtchik with “bribe/sweetener certainly doe not need 20 year pay out from Ratepayers for his Convention centre, but perhaps he has done his sums and knows the convention/conference numbers do not add up!

JC
20 - 08 - 14

Pauline – is that to say that Lambton Quay wouldn’t be a mess in future earthquakes…?

greenwelly
20 - 08 - 14

@pauline
from Teara

During the Second World War, in 1942, two powerful earthquakes on 24 June and 2 August caused substantial damage to many towns in the Wairarapa, and in Wellington. The epicentres of the earthquakes were both near Masterton

Structural damage in Wellington and the Wairarapa was extensive, due to the cumulative effects of the two earthquakes. Eketāhuna suffered more damage than in June. Two blocks of Manners Street in Wellington were closed for several months because of the dangerous state of the buildings. One Wellington building had lost 316 windows in June: 100 shattered in the August earthquake. In Wellington at least 5,000 houses and 10,000 chimneys were damaged by the two major earthquakes. Several years later, many buildings were still unrepaired. This prompted the government to set up an Earthquake and War Damage Commission for earthquake insurance in 1944.

Pauline
20 - 08 - 14

Thank you Greenwelly….I lived in Lyall Bay and do remember many friends whose chimneys came down but apart from a bottle falling into our bath and my father shutting our cat in the door while trying to comfort my mother had little to report at school the next day……

Chico
20 - 08 - 14

It’s completely an issue of his own making.

He leveraged retention (and, as I recall, upgrade) of the Harcourts building to get consent for the HSBC tower. Therefore, if he gets consent to demo the Harcourts building, his consent for HSBC tower should be cancelled and he can either reapply or whip the top few levels off it.

Westside
20 - 08 - 14

He is also trying to pull a swifty in the most patently silly ways. One of his chief arguments against the Harcourts building is that it is too close to the tower, and will cause “pounding” against the tower, damaging the tower and causing the Harcourts building to be damaged.

How stupid do you think we are? Just who was it that built the bloody tower in the first place? You fucked up – don’t come crying now!

greenwelly
21 - 08 - 14

Well it seems that Mr Dunajtschik has found at least one use for the Harcourts building,

It is currently festooned with ACT party election hordings,

Maximus
22 - 08 - 14

Pauline, thank you for your comments, and your recollections. I do hope the cat was alright.
Look – it seems to me to be a crazy think to try and make predictions about earthquakes – but here’s the thing: it’s the UnReinforced Masonry buildings (URM – or as 60 likes to call them, although I can’t remember why: SMURFs) that are the buildings most likely to collapse. Not the steel framed ones, and not the concrete framed ones. Thanks to Sir Michael Fowler, nearly all the URM in Lambton Quay have already been demolished, and nearly all the remaining ones have been strengthened already. There are some exceptions – Stewart Dawson’s corner, I believe, is one such URM. The old BNZ opposite: heavily strengthened. (Cuba St, lower Courtenay, Newtown, are all a different story. Many URM and many likely collapses.)

But the Harcourts building, from what I’ve been told, has a steel frame. It may be nowhere near the current code, or it may be quite close to 33%, I don’t think we have got to the bottom of that. But I’d say that it is in no danger of collapse. Bits may fall off it, sure, and in the case of the cornice falling to the ground from several stories up, that’s a huge danger. But it’s not unresolvable – parapets and cornices can and do get restrained and reinforced and this could be done. But no need to knock the whole building down just because of that.

Pauline
22 - 08 - 14

Yes the cat was OK!

Maximus
22 - 08 - 14

Well, thank goodness for that. My (belated) concern has been allayed.
Pauline – you’ve dealt with the bulldog before. How is it being on the other side?