CTV site suggested for quake memorial

SHOWING RESPECT: A couple take in the site where the CTV building once stood. It collapsed during the February 2011 earthquake, killing 115 people.
SHOWING RESPECT: A couple take in the site where the CTV building once stood. It collapsed during the February 2011 earthquake, killing 115 people.

A nondescript piece of bare land near Latimer Square is surrounded by fences, with bunches of flowers hanging limply from one of them.

A sign hanging on the fence reads: "Please respect this site."

It does not mention that the Canterbury Television (CTV) building stood on this land or that when it collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake, 115 people died.

An unknowing passer-by could be forgiven for not realising the scale of the disaster at 249 Madras St.

How the tragedy will be remembered is one of the most delicate parts of the central city recovery.

The land is in the eastern "frame" - the tranche of properties the Crown is acquiring through the central city blueprint to encourage growth in the compact core of the rebuilt city centre - handing responsibility for it to the Government.

Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) director Warwick Isaacs said purchase talks were under way with the owner, Madras Equities, and plans for the CTV site were being considered.

A design team led by project management firm Opus is working on concepts for the Avon River precinct and the frame.

"In light of the fact that there are sensitive sites in these anchor projects, including the CTV site, we have instructed the design team to give careful consideration to international best practice and the most appropriate treatment," Isaacs said.

"[After that] we will be in a position to ascertain what the options are for future use of these sites."

Concept designs and advice from Opus are due in April.

Madras Equities lawyer Ken Jones said there was no scope for the current owner to address the site's sensitivity as part of the sale to the Crown.

"The [terms of sale] are prescriptive. The owner has no say whatever. The CCDU are going to own that land and what they do with it is up to them."

Maan Alkaisi, who lost his wife, Maysoon Abbas, in the building collapse, said "something special" had to be built there.

"I don't want to see something ordinary, 115 people lost their lives on the site. Some they couldn't find a trace of so their remains are still there. You have to have something special there . . . Even if it is a garden, giving something to other people. It's that continuation that I would like to see."

Murray Grant, whose wife, Jane, died in CTV, has a different opinion; perhaps a sign of how tricky the recovery process will be.

"That's the only place for the [earthquake] memorial. To me, that's a no-brainer."

An official quake memorial is another project in the central city blueprint, but no site for it has been decided on.

International experience warns against preferring one site of tragedy in a citywide disaster over others.

Grant said: "There's people that died in other parts of the city . . . but they can all go on to that same memorial site, surely. It's still where 115 people died."

The Press