Harbour houseboat's final voyage

21:21, May 15 2014

The Nelson City Council says Paul Jepson will be able to claim his belongings retrieved from his houseboat after it was towed to the Port Nelson wharves, lifted by crane and demolished.

Jepson, who has stayed well clear of authority since he built his craft, wasn't around yesterday morning when the harbourmaster's launch made a sudden appearance and towed it away from where it had been moored in Nelson Haven between Akersten St and Queen Elizabeth II Dr.

An hour later it was sitting on Brunt Quay, waiting to be demolished.

The council, which took Jepson to the Environment Court after he had ignored an abatement notice, refused to allow the Nelson Mail on to the wharf to photograph it, communications manager Angela Ricker saying "it would be insensitive to publicise the destruction of something this man felt was his own".

The court had given Jepson three weeks to remove the houseboat, which he built from drums he obtained at no cost, pallets, and recycled corrugated iron. His ingenious method was to sink four piles into the seabed below high water mark on the inside of the Boulder Bank and build on top. Then he attached the drums to provide for floatation, cut it free and set off.

When the Mail inspected it in February it was fitted with a pot-bellied stove, a rainwater collection system, a bed and household shelves.


Jepson, whose activity was first noticed last year, has refused to be interviewed and even threw stones at a Mail photographer. He didn't attend the court hearing and has never been spoken to by city council officials or the harbourmaster, always eluding their visits.

Ricker said the council had been obliged to dismantle the houseboat after Jepson failed to meet the deadline to do it himself.

The council's legal costs to date were $5,638.74, with Port Nelson's charges for removing and dismantling the structure still unknown.

"Port Nelson will charge [the] council, [the] council will charge Mr Jepson," she said. "Mr Jepson's personal belongings are in a secure area and available to him to pick up at the port."