Dunedin Heritage Fund Resignation.

From: Lee Vandervis <lee@vandervision.co.nz>
Date: Tuesday, 22 September 2020 at 12:49 PM
To: Aaron Hawkins <aaron.hawkins@dcc.govt.nz>, Andrea Farminer <Andrea.Farminer@dcc.govt.nz>, Anna Johnson <Anna.Johnson@dcc.govt.nz>, Lauren McDonald <Lauren.McDonald@dcc.govt.nz>, ‘Andrew Barsby’ <ABarsby@heritage.org.nz>, David Benson-Pope <David.Benson-Pope@dcc.govt.nz>, Jane Macknight <JMacknight@heritage.org.nz>, Sandy Graham <Sandy.Graham@dcc.govt.nz>, Lisa Fitzgerald <Lisa.Fitzgerald@dcc.govt.nz>
Cc: “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <council.2019-2022@dcc.govt.nz>
Subject: The Dunedin Heritage Fund

Dear Mayor Hawkins,

I have served on the DHF for many years, and it has been my favourite subcommittee in the days when our Heritage Planner Glen Hazelton worked cooperatively and effectively with property owners and developers to secure many threatened Dunedin Heritage Buildings, and who was able to persuade our Planning and Consents departments to ignore the ‘big box retail’ requirement for the Vogel st area, and allow successful private sector development and restoration of this superb Vogel st. Heritage Precinct.
All of this was achieved with pitifully small DHF funding, which we were able to leverage effectively as tokens of encouragement and positive publicity heightened by the Annual Heritage Awards, for which I routinely donated the sound systems.
Unfortunately The Heritage Awards later altered from a Heritage preservation/celebration focus to becoming a platform for political grandstanding, in particular by Mayor Cull and Cr. Benson-Pope, so I withdrew from the Awards but continued on the DHF subcommittee.
Cr. Benson-Pope’s increasing influence in the DHF had the welcome effect of significantly increasing the amount of annual DCC grants able to be dispensed, but his ‘rich-applicant bad, poor applicant good’ ideology, and his personal antipathy toward me as chair has made being on the DHF much less enjoyable. An example was the DHF agreeing to fully fund a complete residential slate roof replacement because the owner was hopelessly unable to afford any building maintenance. 
As Chair of this triennium’s DHF, I have instigated a review of the Heritage Fund original Deed which is outdated and no longer reflects the workings of the Fund, and I have proposed a new more independent structure for the Heritage Fund that would encourage donations and bequests, and free the Fund from possible conflicts with the DCC, especially from its regulatory departments.
Increasing DCC regulatory requirements have become a major impediment to restoring Heritage Buildings, and as Chair of the Fund I have had to front several complaints from long-established Heritage developers who are now so frustrated by detailed bureaucratic impediments that they will no longer attempt Heritage restoration in Dunedin.
I have had similar complaints as a Councillor from large and small Commercial Property developers [often not Heritage] that the DCC now makes things just too hard and frustrating and that they now only do development outside of Dunedin. I note that this has been a problem for some time, highlighted perhaps by the DCC developing its wood processing facility out of the Dunedin area, partly because of easier regulatory restrictions in Milton. 

My hopes for an updated legal deed basis for the DHF, and the development of the Fund as a more separate entity capable of attracting external funding appears to have been mired in the kind of low prioritisation that finally saw Cr. Benson-Pope sink my motion for a Unitary Council report after two years of inaction.

Most recently, I have been saddened by the increasingly proscriptive and punitive effects on DHF processes by Heritage NZ, who have long history of positive membership on the subcommittee. 
The recent forcing of a developer with conditions including requiring the use of poisonous expensive sheet lead over more modern materials, and the court order sought by HNZ forcing us to spend an additional $400,000 plus ongoing maintenance on a set of manuka sticks is detailed in my email to HNZ as below.

My role on the Dunedin Heritage Fund has now become so compromised that I feel I can no longer act effectively in the interests of Dunedin Heritage. I believe that silver lining to the cloud of Dunedin’s long lack of development, its Heritage Buildings, are essential to our future development and branding. Hopefully some new Chair and Heritage Fund member will be better positioned to take the Fund forward more effectively.

Please accept this email as my resignation from the DCC Heritage Fund.

Kind regards,
Cr. Lee Vandervis

From: Lee Vandervis <lee@vandervision.co.nz>
Date: Monday, 21 September 2020 at 10:37 PM
To: Jane Macknight <JMacknight@heritage.org.nz>, Sheila Watson <swatson@heritage.org.nz>
Cc: ‘Andrew Barsby’ <ABarsby@heritage.org.nz>
Subject: Heritage New Zealand in Dunedin

Hi Jane and Sheila,

I have had the pleasure of meeting Jane briefly at our last DCC Heritage Fund meeting, but hope you will both excuse me for providing an introduction of my heritage activities and description of issues I have experienced involving HNZ.

Following some limited restoration work on 2 buildings in London in the 1970’s, I have spent the last 40 years doing full restoration personally of a number of private and commercial buildings in Dunedin.
These include:
50 Dundas st.            Methodist church, Sunday School and Manse 1860s+

401 Moray place.     2 storey commercial building c 1920s 

31 Elgin road.            3 story villa residence 1890s

45 Garfield Avenue. 2 storey cottage 1880s

47 Garfield Avenue. 2 storey villa 1880s.  ODT cover story at beginning of blog  leevandervis.com
69 O’Connell road.   2 x 2 storey villas conjoined, one 1850s and the other 1910ish.

My builder father taught me much of the trade informally in NZ from a young age despite my clear intention to have a career in electronics which I pursued successfully in London and Australia before setting up Vandervision Audio and Lighting in Dunedin in 1982.
Since coming back to Dunedin, I have mixed my Vandervision electronics career with restoring Heritage buildings including those above, in any spare time I have had. 
Restoration of all of these buildings involved removal of later abominations, some asbestos, and many required removal of: lead-head nails, lead paint, pipes, valleys and flashings to make possible use of roof-supply water.

A fervent admirer of the work of the NZ Historic Places Trust in the 80s saw me working toward the saving of several Dunedin Heritage buildings and later the successful detailed application to the HPT to get Dunedin’s famous Carisbrook listed as a Category One site.
My first HPT shock came when the Category One protection listing for Carisbrook suddenly counted for almost nothing, as the HPT buckled to wanton mindless destruction of all but the old brick turnstiles to make way for a steel-supply shed and a wasteland. I was a City Councillor by this time, and had good information on the extraordinary losses incurred by the people of Dunedin, not just in the loss of their iconic rugby ground but the millions lost in the purchase and subsequent half cost sale of Carisbrook to ensure its erasure.

More recently his year, your HNZ advocate on the DCC Heritage Fund [which I chair] Andrew Barsby, has displayed worrying ideology with respect to only original materials to be used as conditions of Heritage Fund grants, in particular sheet lead which I have been in the business of removing for decades from all my Heritage restorations because of its toxicity.
I have gone along with some unnecessarily expensive requirements for e.g. the original slate type to be conditional for some Heritage Fund Grants, but I am not prepared to be personally associated with any requirement to forcibly introduce lead into our environment.  
HNZ seems to have buckled in this case to the absurd and contradictory claims of the NZ Sheet Lead Association, rather than making evidence-based decisions on lead for which there is no safe level in the environment.   I can forward a number of emails I have already sent to Andrew explaining some this evidence if required.

Most recently, I was appalled to discover that HNZ has gone to the trouble and expense of obtaining a Court Order to force the DCC to spend some $400,000 on the further preservation and display of a quantity of decayed manuka sticks that were unearthed in the ‘too hurried’ excavation of the Wall st shopping mall by the DCC over a decade ago. This new spend is now to come on top of the extraordinary sums already spent on a court case, photographic atrium display in Wall st, the environmentally controlled preservation of approximately a hundred manuka sticks, and the public display and preservation of sample manuka sticks at Toitu.
I am aware of a 2008 DCC legal undertaking to display not just a photo of the manuka mud-sticks [elevated by ideologs to the status of ‘causeway’], but the sticks themselves, but wonder why this absurd spend is being legally enforced by HNZ after all these years. 
My personal view is that uncarved manuka sticks of whatever age used to suppress mud are scarcely worthy of mention, leave alone expensive preservation and display, as I have about 10 acres of them on our farm as do thousands of other rural property owners. 

The issue now then, is one of the credibility of HNZ, its priorities [allow Cat 1 Carisbrook demolition, but must spend half a million dollars preserving muddy sticks] and what appears to be absurd materials ideology that is not in the public interest but is at great public expense.
Decades of valuable HPT/HNZ work has created a remarkable sympathy and compliance by developers and the public at large with real Heritage values in NZ, but this most valuable awareness is now at risk because of new ideologies, wasteful legal processes, and some failures to preserve what is of real Heritage value.

The burgeoning compliance disease that keeps growing in Planning and Consents is now infecting HNZ, and avoidance and non-compliance will inevitably result as the high-regard which HPT/HNZ had earned becomes eroded.
You are losing me as an advocate, and other important developers and industry professionals besides because of unreasonable priorities and overweening controls.

I write this in the hope that you may moderate your enforcement extremes and focus again on fostering Heritage goodwill and love of Heritage [rather than legislated power] 

That, in my view, is the only way to ensure widespread Heritage appreciation and survival.

Kind regards,

Lee Vandervis

47 Garfield Avenue
Dunedin 9010

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