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Dispute Over Paint Heads to Mediation in New Zealand

Friday, March 27, 2015

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Plaza Property Trust, the owners of John Wickliffe House in Dunedin, New Zealand, has been trying to get permission from the Dunedin City Council to paint the exterior concrete panels of the building since 2014. The city council, following a strict reading of the townscape rules which were designed to protect historic buildings and keep the visual landscape of the town from becoming garish.


However, Plaza Property asserts that the council’s reading of the rules is too narrow, and that the rules were designed to govern how stone buildings are maintained and altered. The concrete panels on the John Wickliffe House are not stone, and have suffered an environmental deterioration known as “concrete cancer” which results in cracks and crumbling. Plaza Properties notes that buildings can’t suffer “concrete cancer” unless they are made from concrete, and therefore the building does not fall under rules designed for stone buildings. The paint project would be designed to repair and protect John Wickliffe House from further damage stemming from the environment.


The council still refused to grant consent, fearing that no matter what color might be used the end result would be unattractive. Plaza Properties filed suit, and the court ordered mandatory court-assisted mediation as a first step. If the mediation process does not yield a solution within the month time period allotted by the courts, the suit will go forward as originally planned. The city council has not commented on how the cracking and crumbling can be dealt with in an alternative manner that does not include paint.

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