Havelock North architect Pierre du Toit said that the decision to demolish “was backed by Tuhoe in a bid to rid the Urewera National Park of colonial influence”.
At first sight, the dispute appears to be about how a government department routinely neglected a government-owned building with an historic places rating and used the consequences of that neglect as an excuse to demolish it.
The Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre was and hailed as one of the finest examples of Scott’s work when it opened in 1976.
Artist Colin McCahon was commissioned to paint a mural for the headquarters in 1975. But McCahon used early 20th century ethnographer Elsdon Best as his source for words on the triptych and some of those words grated against Tuhoe sensibilities.
The mural, that the government paid $4000 for in 1975 was valued 20 years later at $1.2-million, was stolen in 1997 only to be returned rather mysteriously 15 months later after negotiations between Maori activists and a well-known art collector.
The mural was rehung in the visitor centre's museum and gallery in 2000 before being put into the care of Auckland Art Gallery. (2)
The Urewera Park headquarters building at Aniwaniwa was used without problem for 30 years until a report in December 2007 claimed there were issues with the three upper timber frame levels of the four-level building, should an earthquake strike. (3)
The upper floors were closed early in 2008 and no decision was to be made until the Crown reached a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with Tuhoe, and the Department of Conservation restructured its management.
The Wairoa District Council pink stickered the building as unsafe in 2010, and the building was vacated.
The Wellington-based Friends of Futuna launched a petition, in May 2011, to save the building from demolition. This group had saved another Scott building, the Futuna Chapel in Karori, Wellington.
A registration report prepared in 2012 for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust – now Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga – successfully advocated for the building’s Historic Place Category One rating, the highest such rating.
The Institute of Architects president, Christina van Bohemen, said the Department of Conservation was using its failure to maintain the building as justification for its demolition.
The cost of repairs is around $750,000 according to du Toit, or $3-million according to the Conservation Department, and the cost of demolition is $100,000.
The “colonial purge” allegation invites a closer look at the Treaty politics going on in the background.
Tuhoe signed a $170-million treaty settlement on June 4, 2013. A further tribal group, Ruapani, has yet to reach a settlement involving an area that includes the lake and encroaches into Tuhoe territory, to Ruatahuna.
In the tribal world of never-ending claiming and counter-claiming ownership of resources it looks like a case of first up best dressed with Tuhoe keen to consolidate their gains at the expense of Ruapani.
At the time of the Tuhoe settlement, there was concern that the government would cave in and give the iconic national park to the perennially embittered tribe. The National-led government adopted the “no one owns it” approach used for the foreshore and seabed.
Under the Tuhoe settlement, the Urewera national park was vested in a Te Urewera legal identity and protected under new standalone legislation, governed by Tuhoe and Crown nominees, who are expected to act in the best interests of the area.
Responding to the question “who will own Te Urewera,” Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said that:
The members of the governance board, both Crown and Tuhoe nominees, will act in the interests of Te Urewera, like trustees or directors of a company. They will not act on behalf of either the Crown or Tuhoe.(4)The governance board was set up with equal numbers of four Crown and four Tuhoe appointees and chaired by one of the Tuhoe appointees. Board members were required to act in the interests of Te Urewera itself, as set out in legislation. After three years Tuhoe will have six nominees on the board and the Crown three.
The Crown nominees are:
Dave Bamford (Lower Hutt), a consultant with Tourism Resource Consultants.
Jim Bolger (Te Kuiti), a former Prime Minister of New Zealand who had close involvement in treaty settlements involving commercial fisheries, Waikato-Tainui, and Ngai Tahu, each worth $170-million.
Jo Breese (Wellington), an environmental consultant and member of the New Zealand Conservation Authority.
John Wood (Kaikoura), the current Chancellor of the University of Canterbury who was chief Crown negotiator for the Whanganui River (another resource with its own legal identity) and Tuhoe Treaty settlement negotiations
Tuhoe board members are:
Tamati Kruger (Taneatua), the chair of Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua, and was the chief negotiator for the Tuhoe treaty settlement.
Matthew Te Pou (Taneatua), a Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua Board member, who was a facilitator of the Central North Island Forestry settlement, and is the past chair of the Central North Island Holdings Company.
Lorna Taylor (Waikaremoana), a board member of Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua, was a trustee representing the Waikaremoana region to the mandated Tuhoe Trust who negotiated the Tuhoe Treaty settlement.
Te Tokawhakāea Temara (Rotorua), deputy chair of Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua and has been chair of the Tuhoe Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board for the past 10 years. (5)
Only two of the eight board members have had no involvement in treaty settlement negotiations.
There is no evidence that this governance board had discussed or voted on the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre. However, if they had voted, it would only take a single Crown nominee to vote with Tuhoe for Tuhoe interests to prevail.
Moreover, when Crown nominees are soon reduced to three facing six Tuhoe nominees, any non-Tuhoe representation will soon be permanently outvoted.
The Crown Forestry Rental Trust was perhaps the first entity that started off in a midway position between the Crown and tribal groups and soon became dominated by tribal groups. See http://breakingviewsnz.blogspot.co.nz/2016/09/mike-butler-forestry-trust-assets-shrink.html
A similar pattern of tribal interests gaining domination of co-governance arrangements is taking place on the Hauraki Gulf Forum. Readers should also keep a close eye on developments at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Planning Committee,
Deliberate destruction of cultural heritage has been conducted by Islamic State at Palmyra, in Syria, and by the Taliban in Afghanistan, when the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan were obliterated.
We appear to have such cultural destruction taking place within New Zealand, as the purposes of the Department of Conservation and Tuhoe align.
1. Building demolition ‘colonial purge’, HB Today, August 25, 2016.
2. Winning design turns out rotten, Stuff, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/2280811/Winning-design-turns-out-rotten.
3. New HQ might be more cost effective, The Gisborne Herald, September 11, 2008.
4. Tuhoe Deed of Settlement Negotiations Completed, March 22, 2013. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/tuhoe-deed-settlement-negotiations-completed
5. Board appointed for new era of Urewera, July 24, 2014. http://www.doc.govt.nz/news/media-releases/2014/board-appointed-for-new-era-for-te-urewera/