Crown takes ownership of Ministry nightclub

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 13:31 28/11/2013
Ministry nightclub
Dave Wethey

HEYDAY: Before the quakes, the Ministry nightclub on Lichfield St was part of the city's dance culture.

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A Christchurch nightclub owner is saddened that the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is compulsorily acquiring his land as part of the Bus Interchange Precinct.

Bruce Williamson, of Ministry nightclub, said that he had planned to rebuild the venue he'd operated for over 20 years on the Lichfield Street site but CERA ''weren't interested''.

''CERA will compulsory acquire our land today so they can reconfigure it and give it to their mates so they can put bars here,'' Williamson said.

''To date I believe this is the most blatant example of CERA taking something that is already the right thing in the right place.''

Williamson said Ministry could be ''repaired for $500,000''.

''They're trying to say it's going to cost $900,000 to fix so it's not worth repairing, give us bare dirt value, knock it down and charge us demolition costs as a further insult. It is not the Ritz, it's Ministry, a warehouse venue.''

Christchurch Central Development Unit director Warwick Isaacs said the compulsory acquisition was undertaken after the Crown was unable to make any progress with the owner in negotiations for purchase, and to ''ensure the central city recovery does not stall''.

Isaacs said the existing building on the property was significantly damaged, and the Crown intended to demolish what was left of the structure.

Williamson said that since the earthquakes $300,000 had been spent with a view to reopening Ministry.

He said the upgrade would have increased capacity from 700 people to 1300. "It's in the right zone for noise, it's in harmony with SOL Square. We could have been the mid-sized venue for touring artists this city so desperately needs.''

Williamson said CERA did not understand the role the venue had played in the city's dance culture since 1992.

''They have no insight whatsoever into the culture and history of what we were doing. They're accountants.''

Isaacs said the design of the Bus Interchange Precinct was still to be complete. Work was due to start in the middle of next year.

''All preliminary options show the site at 88-90 Lichfield Street to be an important component of the new precinct. The new Bus Interchange will be a crucial transport hub for the redeveloped central city.''

Williamson said CERA had not given a reason as to why it would not let Ministry remain.

''We never even got a reply from them. They don't need to give us a reason, they're CERA, they've got total power.

''But if you complain about your land being acquired you're just carpers and moaners or you're not in it for the public good.''

Ministry began in 1992 and was named with the idea of ''taking a musical ministry to people''.

''There will be no other opportunity for a mid-sized economical venue. No property developer is going to build one now, it's too expensive.''

Williamson has admitted defeat but he would like people to know that he didn't give up willingly.

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''We were sitting here freehold and we were prepared to fight it out, but you're on a hiding to nothing because the Government will spend all the money they want on grinding down the ones who are prepared to protest.''

- The Press

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