As an idealistic student I cut my legal teeth on the acheivements of the common law judges who invented new liability rules for bosses. We honoured judges who found ways to punish alleged indifference to forseeable employee deaths and injuries. Hitting their pockets gave bosses incentives to protect workers even if they remained (as we thought) incurably callous.
Today prosecution may face even "bosses" remotely unlike the fat cats of our imagination. Passionate caring may mean little (consider the prosecution of the Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre). They may be driven to bankruptcy by prosecutions for accidents that none foresaw.. Bosses must take all practicable steps to protect even those who deliberately disobey safety rules.
But power always attracts the kind of people who impose loss on others to demonstrate their superiority. They invent noble excuses – in the 19th century worker lives were sacrificed to "progress". This generation's callous bosses are in the green movement, and in councils. They get their kicks by showing how willing they are to sacrifice others to their superior aesthetic and cultural values.
The decision to stop Mark Dunaitschik from replacing Harcourts Building (built as the Temperance & General Insurance building) is a case in point.
So I may live to see the day when Iona Pannett and her ilk are ruing their indifference to the safety and prosperity of those who suffer their rule. The DomPost should record and remind us of the names of the planning commissioners involved. We must ensure they are identified when Wellington gets its earthquake. Those whove enjoyed their power to prevent replacement of dangerous masonry, or who've been indifferent to the connection between relative poverty and the inability to strengthen and replace buildings quickly, will be reviled. They'll deserve every insult and every cost that comes their way because they know the trade-off they have ordered.
They probably comfort themselves that the building will be strengthened and the cost does not matter because it is a landlord who will have to find the money. They may even understand that money wasted without a return is resource lost to Wellington and New Zealand. $15m on preservation adds no usable offices. It probably delays rebuilding and may take investment that should have gone on new capacity elsewhere. It could be saved with a lightweight facade of identical appearance, so this is not about the look and feel of Wellington.
To such people the deadweight cost just confirms how sacred are their objectives. The religious have always measured their piety by how much suffering it causes. That is why all religions ask for sacrifice (preferably not by the leadership).
These modern priests put their sentimental satisfaction that others are still using an old building ahead of the lives that will be lost. They've put it ahead of their duty to protect Wellington's economic interests. We learned today that government wants to take office workers away for cheaper space. So imposing an extra $15m cost on Wellington space that must be recouped from rents fits perfectly with the government intention.
The ultimate blame rests, however, with the central government politicians who handed such powers to confiscate private property without compensation, to the bosses in local government.