Council considers demolition moratorium

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 15:09 04/09/2012
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Richard Cosgrove
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Concern at the loss of heritage buildings in Christchurch could see the city council seek a moratorium on demolitions.

The council's community recreation and culture committee today voted three to two to write to Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee asking for an immediate moratorium on Cera-approved demolitions of listed heritage buildings.

The committee wants the moratorium in place until such time as a heritage recovery programme is approved.

Since the earthquakes, Greater Christchurch has lost much of the heritage that was one of its defining characteristics.

As the end of April this year:

- 37 per cent of the listed heritage buildings in central Christchurch had been demolished (113 of 308 buildings).

- 9 per cent of the listed heritage buildings on Banks Peninsula had been demolished.

- The New Zealand Historic Places Trust had granted over 560 emergency consents to damage or destroy archaeological sites in Greater Christchurch.

Many more heritage buildings are damaged and will be demolished.

Committee chairman Cr Yani Johanson said he was worried that Cera did not have a long-term strategy for retaining Christchurch's heritage and had been too quick to pull buildings down.

"I think what's happened with our heritage buildings has been quite political. There's been a political will to have them knocked down,'' he said.

He acknowledged the moratorium was largely symbolic as Cera had already pulled down most of the heritage buildings on its demolition list, but it was important the council made clear its desire to see as much of the city's heritage saved as possible.

Cr Peter Beck said he was worried Cera was being too quick to bring in the bulldozers.

"I want to send the message to them saying, 'Hang on guys'. That wouldn't be a bad thing,'' he said.

Cr Jamie Gough voted against the moratorium because he believed the council would achieve more by trying to positively engage with Cera.

"The horse has long since bolted and we won't get what we want,'' he said.

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