THE Department of Conservation launched Conservation Week two days ago by swinging a wrecking ball at the hallowed John Scott Aniwaniwa building.

In the end, the pioneering Maori architect's gift to the nation's built vernacular was afforded all the sanctity of a Mexican piñata, with DoC's deputy director Mervyn English flailing about with a club.

As a teenager, I once spent a week volunteering at DoC's Mt Bruce wildlife reserve. I fed kiwi and takahe, handled tuatara and tended to a lame pukeko named Simon. I was hooked. DoC's duty of care to a threatened heritage was engrossing.

It helped matters that with me was a blonde PhD zoology student with a smile so pretty I couldn't hold her gaze. At night, in our small DoC cabin where the bullish Wairarapa rain hammered the roof, I dreamt the two of us would save the world, one kaka at a time.


Neither love interest materialised. It didn't take long to figure females seven years my senior were acres out of my league.

The other realisation, learnt last week, was that DoC is a neutered, effete disgrace. Those lobbying for Aniwaniwa's clemency were casting pearls before swine.

Minister Maggie Barry, too, has somehow reconciled her indifference with her portfolios of arts, conservation, culture and heritage.

Citing repair costs, the Crown entities involved have revealed they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

As Scott's son Jacob said, the real repair bill is a fraction the price of an Auckland house. Just what does make the preservation threshold these days?

The upshot is we've lost arguably the most culturally assimilating building in this land. Ms Barry and Mr English, that's some mighty fine work. You've razed Aniwaniwa, and rendered it a modernist martyr.