Science Alive! defends decision to raze station

DAMAGED: The Science Alive! building in Moorhouse Ave.
DAMAGED: The Science Alive! building in Moorhouse Ave.

Science Alive! has defended its decision to demolish Christchurch's old railway station after criticism from heritage advocates.

The 52-year-old Moorhouse Ave building's fate was sealed last month when part-owner Science Alive! confirmed its section of the building was beyond repair.

The Christchurch Civic Trust yesterday expressed its "despair" that "yet another example of Christchurch's architectural heritage will disappear because of manmade demolition".

Trust board member Ross Gray said the building could have been developed into a transport hub if Science Alive! did not plan to return.

"It is another example of the rush to clean up resulting in a void that forestalls imaginative use of assets left standing in our central city," he said. "These buildings are rapidly disappearing in the wake of the policy of clearfelling our city."

Heritage building owners had a responsibility to the city, Gray said.

"We don't know if [Science Alive!] have exhausted all means or they've decided it's too much trouble and just want to get rid of it," he said.

Science Alive! chief executive Neville Petrie said it was the first he had heard of the Civic Trust's concerns.

The extent of the damage meant repair, at about $30 million, was not an economic option for a charitable trust.

"If someone would come in and offer us the value of the land and was happy to restore the building, then I'm sure the trust board would consider selling it to them," he said.

"The cost of repairing it is way beyond what we can get from the insurance payout, so we really have very little option."

A Christchurch City Council heritage report to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) last month recommended retention and repair of the building.

The railway station had architectural and aesthetic significance as a Dutch Modernist design and cultural significance "as a reminder of an era when rail travel played a central role in society", the report said.

Engineering reports found the building sustained "moderate" damage in last year's February and June quakes.

A Cera spokeswoman said the authority had not ordered the demolition, but was managing the project for the owners. No date for demolition has been set.

The Press