Couple sour over new 'historic' status of home

By Colin Rowatt

Ruth and David Harrison just wanted to live the quiet life in retirement on their farmlet near Bulls.
And that's what they had been doing for the past nine years. But last week an unwelcome letter from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust put a dent in their dream.
They were abruptly advised that their "old house at the end of a lane" had been officially registered as a Category 2 place of "architectural and historic significance".
It is not that the classification will impact severely on their lifestyle. It really only restricts their ability to make structural changes to the house.
What has really irked the Harrisons is the high-handed way the Historic Places Trust has gone about telling them what they can... or can't... do with their own property.
"I think I now know how the Maoris feel about their land," Mrs Harrison said.
The first they knew of any intention to register "Brandon Hall Homestead" as an historic place was late last year when a trust researcher turned up at the house to look around and take photographs.
She told the Harrisons only that the house had been "nominated" for classification. There was no explanation of what that might ultimately mean.
"If I had realised what she was up to, I would have sent her on her way," Mrs Harrison said.
The next advice they had ? out of the blue ? was notification that the house was on the trust list for registration.
They phoned the trust's central region co-ordinator, David Watt, and made their objections known.
However, Mrs Harrison said they were virtually told it was done deal and there nothing they could do to stop it.

The formal public notice of registration is in the Wanganui Chronicle today.
It is not that the Harrisons have any intentions of making structural alterations to their home. Their objection is to the way the Historic Places Trust went about the job, over-riding their concerns and ignoring their protest.
Mr and Mrs Harrison are well aware of the history of their home. They have made it their business to research that.
They have also, at various times, entertained a number of people who had lived in the house in times past and who came back for a "nostalgia trip".
"So I thought the HPT's researcher was doing something similar," Mr Harrison said.
"We were the last people to know what was really happening. They didn't come and talk to us; they just trampled all over us, and I just don't think that's right," Mrs Harrison said.
The irony is that the person who nominated Brandon Hall Homestead to the HPT was a relative of the family from whom the Harrisons bought the house nine years ago.
That family had lived there for several decades and made a number of substantial alterations over that time.
"The place is nothing like in its original form. So I can't see the point of (the classification) except that the house is old and some people might be interested. Otherwise, it's just an old house at the end of a lane," Mrs Harrison said. And while they can't stop what has happened to them, they at least want the New Zealand Historic Places Trust to "get its systems right".
"We don't have a problem with the principle of recognising historic values, only the process. They need to go and talk to the people involved. A phone call or letter is not good enough; they have to and meet them face to face," Mr Harrison said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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