Editorial: Rebel versus rules

No one enjoys being made to look like a toothless fool. But that's what the crusty-sounding DIYer who has reinvented his illegal, corrugated iron-clad Boulder Bank shed as a "houseboat" is doing to the authorities in Nelson.

This Hone of the not-so-high seas has evaded, frustrated or simply ignored the efforts of Nelson City Council, Port Nelson and Department of Conservation officials to get rid of his ramshackle construction. By dropping the structure from its four "piles" on to an old boat, supported by steel drums and technically afloat in the Haven rather than built onto a DOC reserve, he appears to have out-manoeuvred the authorities, at least for the time being.

The council has previously issued an abatement notice and started legal proceedings to force him to dismantle the structure, but now that it is a "boat", the game has changed.

As is often the case with those who challenge the authorities and ignore the rules that apply to the rest of us, the maverick builder has won his share of backers among the online commentariat.

It might be tempting to paint him as a Robin Hood-type figure thumbing his nose at the rules and those who would attempt to enforce them. However, his response when reporters tried to interview him was anything but admirable, yelling obscenities and throwing stones at them.

Harbourmaster Dave Duncan reports similar hostility. Captain Duncan was quoted in the Nelson Mail yesterday as saying: "He throws rocks at us, so I've got no desire to go anywhere near the guy".

Obvious questions include what is he doing with his waste, and will his "success" encourage others. Captain Duncan says as the shed is now afloat it is no longer a danger to navigation. However, break its anchor rope and it could become a serious threat.

Rules are a necessary byproduct of civilisation. The greater the population the more we need to regulate activities. "Doing your own thing" is all very well, but rules and laws are made for the greater good. Individuals who see themselves as above the law encourage anarchy and disorder.