You might get the idea from Stuff today that the Wellington City Council has been more than somewhat lax in its governance of building permits.
Stuff reported that Tapu Te Ranga Marae had only one confirmed consent when the main building burned down at the weekend. This was for a single potting shed.
Despite that, the Wellington marae continued to have paying overnight guests including 27 Scouts cubs, who escaped Sunday’s blaze, and other school groups before that.
Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean confirmed to Stuff that the council could find no other consents for the entire site.
It was possible there may be some retrospective consents the council had not yet been able to find, he said.
Construction of the main marae building began in 1974 and continued for 30 years.
Furthermore Stuff referenced council documents which show four buildings in front of the marae, including the meeting house, were issued dangerous building notices in 2015. The main marae building, destroyed in the fire, also got a notice, which the council confirmed was largely due to fire safety concerns.
MacLean said council inspectors had since deemed parts of the building, including the downstairs areas the Scouts cubs were staying, safe even though they had no consents.
“From a historical point of view it has always been a complicated and complex site and there has been a political and cultural aspect to the whole thing,” MacLean said when asked why the marae had been able to resume operating and have paying guests.
“The council over the years has had to perform a kind of balancing act relating to the whole Tapu Te Ranga site. If we attempted to close the whole thing down, we would have made a lot of people homeless.”
Stuff noted that the marae’s website on Tuesday continued to advertise the site being available for functions, able to cater for up to 100 people at a time sleeping “marae-style” on mattresses on the floor.
Stuff also records a fascinating viewpoint from councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, who said she understood there had been a “long and sometimes strained relationship” between the marae and council.
“In my view, the council must be compassionate and considered in our dealings with the marae and support their important work in rebuilding.”
But Wellingtonians will find this compassion thing has its limits.
In another Stuff report, we learn how and why climate action campaigner Martin Wilson and his “vigilante compost” venture have been nobbled by council officials.
There are almost 20 community gardens in Wellington five of which are in Aro Valley, and Wilson said they were overflowing.
So Wilson decided to make his own community compost, spending about $1500 and dozens of hours tearing out weeds from the town belt at the bottom of Holloway Rd.
The compost wasn’t near homes, it had rat traps, and about 20 households were using it, Wilson said.
But council officers have told Wilson to be rid of the compost and its structures by Friday.
“If they are there after this time, council officers will remove the materials.”
Last year, the council scuttled a worm farm Wilson started in a council bus stop.
Oh, and Wellington property developer Lance James has appeared in court to defend allegations he breached the Resource Management Act by authorising works to be done at a property on Nicholson Road.
The rights and wrongs will be decided by the court.
But it should be noted the council ran out of compassion (and leniency) in its dealings with James on the matter of permits and resource consents.