Rebel's houseboat beats bureaucracy

BOAT AFLOAT: The illegal structure erected near the Boulder Bank has been transformed into a houseboat after floating away.
BOAT AFLOAT: The illegal structure erected near the Boulder Bank has been transformed into a houseboat after floating away.

Nelson's rebel Boulder Bank's boatbuilder seems to have got away with thumbing his nose at officialdom - at least temporarily.

Harbourmaster Dave Duncan confirmed today that the ramshackle structure the irascible old salt has built is now a houseboat and so is able to be moored in Nelson Haven.

Technically it should carry a masthead light switched on in the hours of darkness but that's a rule commonly ignored by owners of the more conventional craft on moorings inside the harbour limits.

If he lives aboard, the owner has to comply with strict pollution controls but if he doesn't, he can continue to visit his floating hideaway.

Captain Duncan said the four poles left after the man cut it free from the building site below the high water mark were a hazard to navigation and would have to be removed. He was talking to the Nelson City Council about that.

The structure itself, which sits on the hull of an old boat and is buoyed by steel drums around its sides, can remain where it is in the meantime.

Captain Duncan said he still hasn't had a conversation with the man, who surreptitiously began his project last year without seeking the required consent.

"He throws rocks at us so I've got no desire to go anywhere near the guy."

He inspected the houseboat this morning and now it was floating it was no longer a danger to navigation, he said.

"Unless it becomes a neglected wreck or a vessel that's dangerous - and that's a matter of opinion - I won't be doing anything about it."

He would be talking to the council "about our next moves - if any".

"I'm not draconian if people behave themselves and follow the process. He needs to be able to assure us that he's not living aboard. He's very clever, I'd have to say that."

There was a lot of interest in the man's story and two television crews had asked him to take them out to see the houseboat.

"I will, now that I've seen it myself, and that I've stopped laughing."

Fairfax Media first reported on the man's activities in September, when his work became visible from Atawhai across the haven and began drawing public comment. He ignored an abatement notice issued by the council, and a legal process to force him to dismantle it was set in train.

The publicity drew hundreds of internet comments from around New Zealand, many of them supporting the man for his independent thinking.

He shouted obscenities and threw stones at a Fairfax Media photographer sent to get fresh pictures after the first story.

He was later seen entertaining friends on board, but has been uncommunicative with officials.