Police called to Cranmer Courts protest

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 14:05 11/10/2012
Cranmer Courts demo
Stacy Squires

PUBLIC PLEA: Protesters Rod Hair, left, and Ross Gray call for the Cranmer Courts demolition to be halted.

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Protesters have again gathered outside Cranmer Courts.

A police spokesman said about 10 people were protesting against the demolition of the historic building.

Protester Lynne Lochhead said four policeman had shown up at Cranmer Courts, saying they had been told protesters were spitting at the machinery.

"I didn't see anyone doing that. It was ridiculous to have that much police presence down here," she said.

"The real crime is what's going on there - the demolition."

Lochhead was pleased the council had voted to halt demolition.

"At least there has been some sort of activity. It was a huge surprise after being ejected by the mayor," she said.

Anger had earlier turned to jubilation as the heritage campaigners evicted from a Christchurch City Council meeting learnt that councillors had voted 5-4 to call for a one-month moratorium on the demolition of Cranmer Courts.

The campaigners were ordered from today's council meeting by Mayor Bob Parker after they repeatedly interrupted councillors debating whether they should ask the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to stop the demolition while a new owner for the building was sought.

Cr Helen Broughton, who lodged the notice of motion, said it was incredibly important that Cranmer Courts was saved.

"We need to ask Cera to stop and look at options and see if there are any developers who are prepared to come through and do something with this building,'' she said.

Cr Jamie Gough said the body corporate had worked tirelessly to try to save the building and it was time to accept the reality it was beyond saving.

"I wish we had the ability to save Cranmer Courts but we can't,'' he said.

His comments were greeted by cries of "shame'' and ''rubbish'' from protesters in the public gallery.

Some, including Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust chairwoman Lorraine North, stormed out in protest as Cr Sue Wells spoke against the motion.

Those left in the public gallery were warned by Parker that he would evict them all from the meeting if they did not keep quiet, but as Wells continued to speak, one woman stormed out, shouting: "Emotional crap - I'm going to be sick.''

An angry Parker then ordered the public gallery to be emptied.

"You're breaking our hearts - bastards,'' the Wizard of Christchurch shouted as he left.

Earlier in the meeting, North told councillors that she could not understand why they were doing nothing to save Cranmer Courts.

She questioned whether the intentional destruction of cultural heritage site such as Cranmer Courts was a breach of several international treaties to which New Zealand was a signatory.

Associate Professor Ian Lochead told councillors that a covenant on Cranmer Courts meant, in his view, the current demolition was illegal.

"As we speak, one of Christchurch's most significant heritage buildings is being destroyed,'' he said as he called for an immediate halt to the demolition work.

He said there was a consortium of property developers interested in buying the building. "Cranmer Courts only needs time for a successful outcome to be found.''

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Lochead said that if all avenues for saving the building failed, the council should buy it.

Parker said he believed the notice of motion calling for a one-month moratorium was pointless as the council had no authority to intervene and the building was already half-gone.

''This is tilting at windmills,'' he said as he announced he would be voting against the motion.

The final vote was 5-4 in favour of asking Cera to halt demolition for a month.

The result stunned the campaigners, who had waited anxiously outside for the council's verdict.

''It gives us what we desperately need, which is more time, and we're just amazed it's gone in our favour,'' North said.

''We're stunned because it wasn't altogether a quiet meeting and there were a few comments and we were basically kicked out, so we thought, 'That's it; no chance'.''

 

- The Press

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