Destruction of historic buildings a form of barbarism

Near the bottom rungs on the ladder of rectitude, just above criminals, used to be the space occupied, in the common mind, by politicians and used-car salesmen. That position has now been seriously threatened and overtaken by people euphemistically calling themselves “developers”.

What that moniker frequently amounts to is simply the blatant destruction of buildings which often possess heritage value, history and old world charm. Knock it down and put up something cheap and nasty in its place epitomises all that’s mercenary, base and soulless in the New Zealand psyche.

One can speculate as to why so much architectural beauty and buildings of historical character in this country have simply been destroyed by the careless swipe of a swing-ball or bulldozer blade. Some have suggested it’s to do with the fact that New Zealand is a young country. We’re mere adolescents in historical terms and thus behave accordingly. Unlike other more established European nations, Pakeha culture adds up to a paltry 170 years. We are shallow in the soil, as New Zealand commentator Monte Holcroft once observed, the consequences of which are we haven’t grown up, matured or developed a strong sense of time and place and its importance to us as a people. We’re opportunists, incapable, like teenagers, of either looking forward too far or back.

Others, in an attempt to explain our cavalier attitude to heritage, point to our rough and gruff nature, the “she’ll be right” attitude that goes with a certain careless stance or the more brutal, “put the boot in” call. Continue reading


Peter Dornauf is a Hamilton artist, writer and teacher.

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