Proponents of eminent Maori architect John Scott have made a last-ditch effort to save one of his revered works on the shores of Lake Waikaremoana.
The New Zealand Institute of Architects told Hawke's Bay Today it had written to the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, Te Urewera Board and Chris Finlayson as minister responsible for treaty settlement negotiations, in a bid to stop the imminent demolition of Scott's 1976 Aniwaniwa Visitors' Centre.
A spokesperson for the institute said it had also filed an Official Information Act request to ask on what basis the Department of Conservation (DoC) demolition decision was made.
"We believe poor information has been used to justify a poor decision," the spokesperson said. "DoC's arguments about the state of Aniwaniwa and the costs of remediation work rest on highly contentious reports, and there has never been a meaningful attempt to find or consider solutions other than demolition."
The 11th hour appeal came on the same day DoC began preparatory work and a final blessing yesterday. DoC said a karakia was held at 5am by the Waikaremoana Tribal Authority to clear the way for the demolition, which was expected to takeup to eight weeks.
Last week Historic Places Aotearoa forwarded a letter to Conservation Minster and Minister of Arts, Culture & Heritage, Maggie Barry, claiming DoC had been "so focused on the demolition that they may have failed to follow Government tendering requirements. The demolition contract was not advertised as required."
President James Blackburne wrote that the building was owned by the Crown and managed by DoC on behalf of the nation, and therefore the general public should have "the opportunity to debate the merits of the building and its future".
"The former Te Urewera National Park Visitor Centre is a building of national significance which has in the past been visited by people from all over New Zealand and the world because of the building's design."
He said the work "truly articulated" Maori cultural and spiritual requirements while being modern and not a replica of traditional Maori architecture.
"The visitor centre is distinctly organised with reference to marae, with entry via the waharoa, the walkway through the bush up to the entry into the building and the Maori Hall where the Colin McCahon triptych used to hang, while at the same time it is truly a modernist building."
Last week Ms Barry said she believed all correct processes had been followed in the decision to demolish.
DoC said work has begun on securing the site and building and making it safe for an Auckland company contracted to carry out the work. It said a small team is overseeing the dismantling and is working with Te Uru Taumatua, who are managing the site.
Scott's son, Jacob Scot, earlier said the decision was "criminal". He claimed the true cost of refurbishment was "only a fraction of an Auckland house price."
An online petition opposing the demolition on www.change.org had garnered 1439 supporters as of last night.