Statement From The Owners Of the Art By The Sea Gallery

Posted by on Nov 24, 2010 | 2 Comments

Statement from the owners of Art by the Sea gallery

We would first like to state that we have received tremendous support from the Devonport community during this time and feel humbled to be a part of this community.

Secondly, we acknowledge that the Navy do a tremendous job of providing worthwhile careers, employment and life skills to a wide range of young adults from different walks of life. And we recognise that this isolated incident is not indicative of the overall behaviour of Navy personnel.

However we take issue with the way in which the aftermath was handled by senior Navy administration.

In relation to the events of early Friday morning October 29 we have been asked to write a Victim Impact Report by the attending police officer. It is the first time we have had to do one of these and I hope it will be the last. I think it’s fair to say that this would be the hope of most “victims”… not ever having to write a Victim Impact Report. The obvious reason being that, as a result of some calamitous event, you have ended up on the downside of it in the aftermath.  Together with the artists and building owner we now find ourselves in that unenviable position of joining the thousands of other victims who share this title. The word “victim” conjures up images of dead or damaged people and crying and mourning. All that was damaged at Art by the Sea “shop” as Cpt Keating described us,  was some art. (And some very Public Relations by the Navy.)

So what are we moaning about! Get the insurance money to pay for the damage, get the building restored and get on with it. Like the thousands of other quiet, faceless victims who clean up the mess in their gardens, who cross the street when the intimidation gets too much and who claim insurance on their vandalised cars along Queen and King Edward Pdes. And then get on with “it”.

The only problem with that scenario for us is:

1: Artists do not create pieces for insurance money. They create work for people to enjoy and connect with.

2:  Being a Heritage building it has taken nearly a month to even begin the restoration process. During this time we have had to “get on with it” under somewhat trying conditions through no fault of our own.

3: We, the owners, are the ones held liable by the artists and we are the ones who have to contact them and tell them sorry but their precious one-of-a kind artwork has been destroyed by careless, loutish, irresponsible behaviour.

Comments that say it was the individuals fault ring true, but if society is quick to point the finger at the parents of other loutish youth in other areas of Devonport then what of the Borough’s largest employer who effectively houses, feeds and attempts to guide some of the country’s youth. Where does the responsibility rest if one of those individuals leaves “allegedly” intoxicated from the base? Does it become a question of “Am I My Brother’s Keeper” or more a question of accountability for one of my “family” members actions?

As detailed on the RNZNavy website under Core Values, personnel are referred to as family. Under Courage “accepting responsibility” and “being accountable for my actions” are also listed. If there had been someone who couldn’t sleep and went out walking in the early hours of the morning and happened to be looking in the window of the “shop” what then? Are we really that safe from the very people that are employed to protect us?

The RNZ Navy Mission Statement begins by saying  ” To contribute to the security and prosperity of all New Zealanders …” In this case that ideal seems to have been lost on this individual.

As an aside we have never met Captain Keating either before, during or after this event. We have met Commander John Crighton on two occasions after the event occurred.

And finally. What is wrong with saying sorry if you have done something wrong?

Linda and Mike Geers



  1. Daniele Hoffmann says:

    An apology is not enough – an aplogy is the absolute minimum from ALL sides- for the owners of the art gallery and the artists.

    The youngster should be sentenced to at least 1 year of civil/social service and should spend the next months in the gallery helping in cleaning up and in doing restoration. He/she should also help the artists and apologize to them as well.

    I am getting very, very tired of – and exhausted by – legal systems which do not use their legal norms to help alleviate the damage/pain that victims suffer and have to accept and live with.

    This time the drunken driver hit a window of an art gallery. What will it be next time? A person – your child ?

    This should be one of these numerous wake-up calls for legislation, police and judges.

    The laws and legal norms exist, start applying them ! What are we waiting for ? What else has to happen ?

    Daniele (an attorney)

  2. Ruth says:

    I met Mike the morning after the damage to his property by drunk Navy personnel. he was understandably distraught then – and I am sad to see he is still waiting to have any sort of resolution – apart from the hassle of writing a “victim” impact statement.

    I also met Cpt Keating and 2 of his senior staff at the open session at the Library on 17th Nov. I was reassured at the raft of policies they have in place to discourage excessive drinking (and smoking). Clearly Cpt Keating was apologetic and regretful about the Art by the Sea damage by one of his drunken staff. Especially as it has undome a lot of positive impressions engendered by the Open Day by the Navy.

    The leaglities of the case should not prevent an apology to Mike and Linda; it unfrtunately suggests that evrything is being done to let the young chap off too lightly. The community will await the sentencing – and a response by the navy as to the additional measures they will take in the futue – with great interest.

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