Image: Lochiel, source, The Courier Mail.
Some of the older homes tend to be somewhat eye catching as you drive around the town. They are like an oasis of the past in a modern world and thankfully quite a number of people love them enough to buy and restore them to their former glory. I hope this trend will continue long into the future. A great many people who don’t own them love them also, enough to want to see them preserved, and that’s where the trouble starts.
In the modern busybody state property rights have been devalued to the point where property owners are becoming more and more mere custodians of their investment whose rights are subject to the approval of every neurotic with an axe to grind. There are vegetation laws, planning laws, building permits, land use controls, restrictions on numbers and types of animals allowed, right down to the types of light bulbs that can be used.
One of the worst of these is “heritage laws.” After a building reaches a certain age especially if surrounded by more modern buildings there is a real risk to owners that the National Trust or the ‘heritage’ zealots will start to consider it a “unique example of” some era of the past. At such a point it becomes part of a “do not change under any circumstances” list.
Today’s paper gives a great example of this obsession: Owners of historic residence Lochiel at up-market Hamilton in Brisbane have copped a record $350,000 fine and been ordered to pay $20,000 costs for working on the heritage-listed property without Queensland Heritage Council approval.
Apparently they made alterations to the foundations and some walls in order to extend the cellar. The building was put up in 1868 but has not been a static or unchanging thing since. Extensions were done in 1908, including a new wing, gatehouse, and museum, which was apparently a fad at the time.
An upper story was added in 1927.
It was turned into six flats from after WW2 until 1998. The previous owner restored it in 2001 after what was described as “a battle with the Heritage Council over several issues, including its color.” That’s right, they even feel that the owner cannot choose the pigments in the paint, after all the old drab colors of yesteryear were so much more appealing.
The question is, that if the building has been in a constant state of change right up until less than ten years ago, just what is so wrong with modern changes, especially when they are made under the ground? At what point in time did change become bad? It is after all a private residence so what the inside is like is only the concern of those who live in it.
Sustainability Minister Kate Jones, (yes we even have a minister for ‘sustaining’) said, "It is very disappointing that anyone would flout the law in this way and allow the heritage values of such an incredible home to be compromised," she said yesterday. "The works carried out on this majestic property clearly required the owners to apply . . . for approval. If a development application for these refurbishments had been submitted, they would not have been approved."
For some reason I keep thinking of the lines from the Mikado:
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;”