Brownlee won't halt heritage demolitions

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 10:49 20/11/2012

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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is refusing to place a moratorium on the demolition of Christchurch's quake-damaged heritage buildings.

Christchurch City Council wrote to the minister last month asking for a moratorium because it was concerned at the rapid rate heritage buildings were being pulled down.

By the middle of this year about half of the 308 listed heritage buildings in the central city had been demolished.

The council wanted a moratorium on further demolitions until the Culture and Heritage Ministry had put its heritage buildings and cultural heritage places programme in place, but Brownlee has ruled that out.

The programme aims to strike a balance between saving heritage buildings and ensuring a speedy recovery.

In a letter to the council, Brownlee said it was not viable to halt demolition of unsafe buildings or delay recovery where it was clear that a building could not be retained.

Considerable time had elapsed since the September 2010 and February 2011 quakes, during which building owners, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), the Historic Places Trust and local authorities had had opportunities to explore retention options for individual buildings.

"I do not consider that a moratorium is either merited or in the best interests of recovery," Brownlee said.

The minister's response has disappointed heritage campaigners.

Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Buildings Fund Trust chairwoman Anna Crighton said a moratorium was desperately needed because too much of the city's heritage was lost because decisions had been made in haste.

Brownlee's decision showed he was prepared to "ride roughshod" over Christchurch's heritage.

City councillor Yani Johanson said the moratorium was needed because the Government was taking too long to put in place a strategic framework for saving the city's built heritage.

In the absence of that framework Cera was approving the demolition of heritage buildings based solely on building owners' individual circumstances.

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- The Press

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