Heritage holdups frustrate

16:00, Jan 24 2014
Antony Gough
BUILDING BLOCK: Flamboyant property developer Antony Gough at his Oxford Tce development with a large concrete block archaeologists excavated.

Christchurch developer Antony Gough is sick of paying people to "sift sand and stare at dirt", saying heritage is becoming a roadblock to recovery.

His comments come as the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) seeks feedback from heritage building owners and advocates on a draft heritage recovery programme in greater Christchurch.

Gough said work at his $140 million Oxford Tce development had ground to a halt several times as archaeologists scoured the site for artefacts.

Work was stopped recently after the discovery of a "large lump of concrete", he said. "It's just getting silly ... and I think this is really going to wind people up."

He had already spent about $70,000 on archaeologists and could end up spending thousands more.

"They might as well be on my payroll permanently - it would be cheaper."


Some developers could be tempted to carry out excavation works "in the dead of night so they don't have to deal with this annoyance", Gough said. He believed in retaining as much heritage as possible but thought the required process was "over the top".

About $100,000 had been spent on making Shands Emporium on Hereford St weather-proof and safe.

Gough had called for a meeting with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) next week.

Owners of all sites associated with pre-1900 activity must legally apply to the trust as a consenting authority to carry out work.

said the trust would either decline or approve an application.

More than 1700 applications had been received since the September 2010 earthquake and NZHPT Canterbury archaeological officer Frank van der Heijden believed the trust had taken a "pragmatic and reasonable approach" to heritage conservation.

Gough's site was "very significant", as was Shand's Emporium, he said. "I think it's about give and take. There has been some exciting findings and I don't think it's fair to say that this process is a roadblock."

Pre-quake, applications could take up to three months but this had since changed to three working days.

Owners could contract their own archaeologists and most charged between $80 to $100 an hour, van der Heijden said.

"It will be the last chance to discover and record things about Maori occupation and European settlement in the 1850s."

yesterday said he had not received any feedback suggesting heritage conservation was holding up developments but said the focus should be on the future, not the past.

"We've made reasonable protocols with the [NZHPT] but I don't doubt they will push the boundaries and I'm a little distressed to hear a project so important is having those difficulties."

Ashton Owen, who owns the former St Elmo Courts site with his father, said archaeologists had quickly scanned the site but there had been no delays.

It was unfair developers were made to "jump through so many hoops" when the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority could "knock heritage buildings down without looking at all possible avenues", he said.

Ganellen commercial director Michael Doig said the company had always contracted its own archaeologists to monitor sites of interest throughout the early excavation phase.

Substantial findings could be "really frustrating and cause significant delays", he said. In most circumstances, contractors would factor expected delays into their construction programme.

The aim of the MCH's heritage recovery programme included retaining heritage buildings and places, determining the best methods of strengthening buildings, reusing heritage materials, identifying sites of significance to Ngai Tahu and conserving artefacts from archaeological sites.

"The overall aim must be to ensure that heritage recovery is an integral part of the recovery of greater Christchurch, not a roadblock," it said.

As of December, 47 per cent of heritage-listed buildings in Christchurch had been lost as a result of the earthquakes.


Archaelogists have unearthed thousands of historic items in the central city since the earthquakes. Some of the more unusual items found include:

The remains of a pony under the Isaac Theatre Royal A porcelain doll's head in Springston

A miniature sword was unearthed on Lichfield St Furnace doors were found on Colombo St

A harmonium was found under a Lyttelton church

A roller skate dating back to the 1890s was discovered under New Regent St

Many time capsules have been found since the earthquakes, including at Christchurch Hospital's former Hagley Hostel and under the statue of Christchurch founder John Robert Godley.

The Press