Protester arrested at Cranmer Courts demolition

MICHAEL WRIGHT, JOELLE DALLY AND ANNA TURNER
Last updated 12:12 04/10/2012
Daniel Tobin

A group of protesters gathered at the Cranmer Courts as demolition of the building resumes

Cranmer Courts demolition
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ Zoom
IN TROUBLE: A protester is arrested at Cranmer Courts.

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One person has been arrested after protesting against the demolition of Cranmer Courts.

The man allegedly breached the fence to enter the building site where demolition workers were deconstructing the building.

Demolition was halted while the man was removed. Police arrested him on a trespassing charge.

The man was among a small group of protesters who turned up at Cranmer Courts this morning.

Attendees at a public heritage meeting on Tuesday night voted unanimously for Christchurch City councillors to seek an extraordinary meeting to delay the work.

Five councillors' signatures were needed to force such a meeting, which would seek an urgent request for a stay be put to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).

The effort was to no avail as the demolition contract was signed yesterday and work began at 9am today.

Iconic Heritage Group member Janette Kear said she was "horrified" to learn of the historic building's fate.

"It's unbelievable. They're obviously not thinking of the long-term future of Christchurch,'' she said.

"What I don't understand is we've been driving around this building for months. It's not impeding anything.

''There is no reason it can't be fenced off and kept as it is until the economic climate improves."

Fellow protester Elizabeth Lochhead said she was dumbfounded by the demolition.

"We are going to have nothing left of our cultural history but photographs. It's so sad," she said.

Derrick Boerse said his wife had let him attend the protest "as long as he didn't get arrested".

"This building has a special place in my heart. It's madness to see it go like this,'' he said.

"I think they've pushed this through so quickly so it can't be held up by the public like the cathedral."

Kear said an email was sent out late last night telling protesters to gather for a "vigil" at 8.30am.

"It's hard because many people have to work, but we are hoping to have people down here all day," she said.

Elizabeth Halliday, who lives nearby, said she may not be able to stay to see the bulldozers move in.

"I have tears in my eyes already. There's no words left to say," she said.

Stephen Dickson took his children, Michael, 7, and Hannah, 5, for "one last look at the building".

"I drive past here every day and wanted to see it one last time. I think the building has run its course though. It can't be saved," he said.

No-one from the Cranmer Courts body corporate was known to be at the heritage meeting, and Annabel Sheppard, the lawyer acting for them, was unaware of the move.

"It wasn't at our client's initiative," she said.

"Obviously the [councillors] have decided to do something off their own bat."

While the effort was well-intentioned, it was too little too late.

"Even if Cera were to consider halting the demolition ... you still need someone with the money,'' she said.

Cera issued the Cranmer Courts body corporate a section 38 dangerous-building notice on April 19.

Demolition started in June but was stopped while discussions to save it were held.

An Australian had offered to buy the site and restore the facade, and all 31 unit owners had agreed.

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The sale was conditional on the buyer doing due diligence, involving a series of engineering and insurance assessments.

Last Friday, the body corporate received news the offer had been withdrawn.

Cr Glenn Livingstone, who chaired the heritage meeting, said it became clear last night the latest rescue attempt was in vain.

"Even if we could, we won't get a meeting in before [demolition starts]. Even if we could have signalled we were having one," he said.

A Cera spokesman said the authority had allowed the body corporate to exhaust its non-demolition options.

Nine townhouses, built later in Peterborough St, were not subject to the demolition. Their future is unknown.

- The Press

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