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PC's Opinion: 'Architect' Scores Victory

This opinion piece is part of a new series of "PC's Opinion" - a pithy, heavily spiced editorial from Peter Cresswell that can be delivered to your in-box once a week. If you like what you read then feel free to forward it to everyone you've ever met, and to subscribe at

PC's Opinion

'Architect' Scores Victory for Common Sense

A man was charged yesterday with being an architect.

The courtroom broke down in laughter as the charge sheet was read out, but in 2002 calling yourself an architect without joining the architects' professional body will get you a criminal conviction, and will see you sharing the dock with burglars, drunk drivers, shoplifters and muggers.

As it happened, no one from the architects' professional body showed up to prosecute the case (and none of the dozen or so lawyers in the court wanted to soil themselves with it) so the case was dismissed. Steve Hart, ecology architect and dismissed defendant, said outside the Hamilton District Court that the decision to dismiss the case brought against him by the architects' professional body was a victory for common sense and for the English language.

Hart was taken to court by the Architects' Education & Registration Board (AERB) for having a sign outside his office proclaiming him to be an Ecology Architect. Putting the offending sign back up outside his Raglan office, Mr Hart confirmed that he calls himself an Ecology Architect because "an inspection of any English language dictionary will confirm that the description is an accurate one - 'architect' is the best word to describe what I do."

Undaunted by his brush with the courtroom, Hart (accompanied by supporters and fellow 'architects' Fred Stevens from Rotorua and Peter Cresswell from Auckland) pointed out that the law as it stands offers little protection to the public, serving only to protect members of the NZ Institute of Architects (NZIA). The outdated Architects Act 1963 says that only those registered with the AERB are entitled to call themselves architects - the AERB acts as a gatekeeper for the NZIA - and the AERB and the Institute spend an inordinate amount of time policing those who offend this cosy arrangement.

"It's a boys' club," say Hart, Stevens and Cresswell. "The only thing that should be protected in law is the words: 'registered architect'" they say, pointing out that if being registered is such a good thing the market is likely to recognise that. And if the market doesn't recognise the extra cache that membership of the boys' club brings? "Then there's no argument for legal protection then, is there?" they say.

These three have designs on breaking the NZIA's unjust monopoly. Hart, Stevens and Cresswell along with others will very soon be launching a new organisation to challenge the NZIA's monopoly. "Watch this space!" they say.

© 2001

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