HSBC Tower in Wellington is new, sound and built on base isolators. Yet it is 'closed' to entry, and only the few MFAT or other employees who got there early enough to beat the closing order are productive there today.
Why? Because the vacant 'Harcourts' building (Temperance & General) next door is threatening it. Engineers may advise that it is not going to collapse. But until then, the 24 story HSBC building is largely idle.
I posted on the Harcourt's 'heritage' fiasco in February. I've been meaning since then to take a careful look at the law governing liability for dangerous buildings that fall into the street.
Our courts (and public outrage) are currently resurrecting a degraded form of tort exposure via criminal compensation., The pressure for Pike River shareholders to pay shows where it is evolving. Those in favour even want retrospectivity.
So my wish may some day be gratified, to see punishment for [heritage zealots*] who discourage strengthening and replacement of older weaker buildings.
The losses of HSBC tenants are directly referable to the interference with the property rights of Mr Dunaitschik. They are predictable.
Relevant Council immunity and other legal cover for the heritage zealots may survive, but our courts are deplorably inventive in finding ways around ouster clauses. In view of the calumny heaped on the shareholders of Pike River, I hope there is a silver lining to that inventiveness so that if anyone is killed when the Harcourts façade falls, there is prosecution for those who put their heritage preferences ahead of our property rights (and lives).
[*this previously referred to Councillors. When it was first written I took at face value the council's support for its Commissioners' decision early this year in favour of the Historic Places Trust. I'm informed that in fact most councillors may deplore the Historic Places Trust's interference in the Harcourts building case. That is reassuring, but does not absolve them. They are not visible leading any challenge to powers for their planners, or neighbours, to impose their aesthetic preferences on property owners throughout the city, indifferent to cost.]