Mt Eden artist Martin Law looks at his painting of a historic church hall in his neighbourhood engulfed in flames and says he is not surprised his premonition came to pass.
He did the painting of the 133-year-old St James Presbyterian Sunday School Hall three years before it burnt down last December in a suspected arson.
"It is most likely that a liquid accelerant has been poured and ignited", the Fire and Emergency New Zealand report, released to the Herald under the Official Information Act, concluded.
That prompted a police investigation, which, after several months, has exhausted lines of inquiry.
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Law drove past the hall regularly and painted it several times. Look closely at a depiction of its interior and you can see where Law has inscribed the word "Save". He did so, he explains, because buildings such as these are at risk, more so with the high cost of required earthquake strengthening.
"It was very much at the forefront of buildings that I wanted to capture for my Painter of Paradise project."
Law started his Painter of Paradise series four years ago and hopes it will become a detailed archive of New Zealand's architectural heritage. He is compelled by a sense of urgency.
"A lot of it is disappearing for various reasons," says Law, who has clocked up 170 works.
He depicted the St James Church hall burning, framed by a fireplace because for buildings that suffer years of neglect this is often what happens, he says. "So it is really unsurprising that we lost it. I was in England at the time and I was totally devastated when I heard the news."
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"I believe it was a building that was so important to Aucklanders, it had unique architectural characteristics that are now gone.
"It is not the first building I have painted through this project that has been lost through dubious circumstances. When buildings are abandoned they are prone to vandalism.
"There's a definite message in this. The whole point of the Painter of Paradise project is to highlight the beauty of our historic architecture. I think the story is we have to learn to love our built architectural heritage. We cannot allow the loss of such great buildings."
If Law, who lives and works from his kauri villa, built in the late 1800s, is any sort of activist, then his paintings are his placards. He is on the lookout for other buildings at risk to record while he still can.
"I don't know if I'm that person who can badger the council, and write to this and that MP, but perhaps I can do it by putting a painting on the wall," he told North & South magazine last year.
Law, 51, married a Kiwi and moved to New Zealand more than a decade ago from the UK, where he worked as a conceptual designer for clients including Eric Clapton and Saudi royalty. He knew, he says, from his first trip that this was a special land, hence the title of his project.
An exhibition of works from Painter of Paradise is on this weekend as part of the Heritage Festival.
Detective Sergeant Ewen Settle told the Weekend Herald that inquiries had failed to identify any offender and the case had been filed.
The fate of the hall, built in 1885, and the church next to it, built in 1900, became contentious when the Presbyterian Church decided it couldn't afford major renovations and chose to sell.
Developer Andrew Montgomerie agreed to buy the properties in 2014 through his entity Montana Trustees and, according to court records, a deal went unconditional in 2016 but money didn't have to be paid until consent to demolish the hall to make way for 18 apartments was obtained.
Two weeks before the fire, the Environment Court ruled that demolition could go ahead in the interests of public safety on condition that heritage items were salvaged where possible. The fire made that requirement redundant.
Six months later, in May, owner the Presbyterian Church Property Trustees, said it had cancelled the contract because the developer had not paid. The church has subsequently paid to clear and make the site safe.
But this month, Russell Garrett, executive officer of the church's property arm, said the developer had since filed a statement of claim in the High Court at Auckland seeking to enforce the sale agreement.
The Herald has requested comment from Montgomerie via his lawyer.
Civic Trust Auckland, which was a party to the court battle regarding demolition of the church hall, warns more such buildings will be lost because of an emphasis on building safety over heritage.
The Environment Court focused on a dangerous building notice that Auckland Council had not enforced, says Civic Trust Auckland president Allan Matson. The building was abandoned after the council shut it down for safety reasons in 2012.
"Those notices must be acted upon within 60 days, and with the cost of repairs prohibitive for many building owners, and no ability on the part of councils to require even basic maintenance [the judge's] singularly-focused decision provides an ominous invitation to further 'demolition by neglect'.
"This problem faces councils throughout the country, and without any solution in sight, New Zealanders can expect to see increasing and widespread loss of heritage buildings."
Painter of Paradise is on today and tomorrow as part of Auckland Heritage Festival, 10am-4pm, Studio/Gallery, 28 Prospect Terrace, Mt Eden