Powerless to stop heritage demolition

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 15:36 29/11/2012
Odeon Theatre
John Kirk-Anderson

UNDER A CLOUD: The future of the former Odeon Theatre in Tuam St is uncertain.

Nazareth House
NAZARETH HOUSE: The chapel at Nazareth House in Brougham St may be demolished.
Odeon Theatre
PRE-QUAKE: The Odeon Theatre was a striking, if rundown, building before the quakes.

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City councillors say they are powerless to save Christchurch's heritage buildings with nearly one in three already demolished.

To date, 174 of the 585 listed heritage buildings in Christchurch, or 30 per cent, and 34 of the 334 listed heritage buildings in Banks Peninsula have been demolished.

Requests are with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) for the demolition of the former Avon Theatre (the Holy Grail bar) in Worcester St, the Nazareth House chapel in Brougham St, and the Lyttelton Tunnel control building.

Doubt hangs over the future of five listed heritage buildings in Banks Peninsula and 67 in Christchurch, which have not yet been confirmed for retention.

These include Christchurch's two cathedrals, the former Chief Post Office building in Cathedral Square, the Majestic Theatre and the Excelsior Hotel in Manchester St, Fleming House and Wesley Lodge in Park Tce, the Christchurch Club and the State Insurance building in Worcester St, the former Odeon Theatre and the former Millers building in Tuam St, and the former teachers college (the Peterborough Centre) in Peterborough St.

Of the 174 heritage buildings in Christchurch that have been demolished, many have been pulled down with little or no consultation with the council. A Heritage Buildings and Cultural Heritage Places Recovery Programme that Cera tasked the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to draw up has yet to be put in place.

''We have got to the stage where the frustration is immense,'' Cr Yani Johanson, chairman of the council's community recreation and culture committee, said this week.

''We have sent lots of letters but I think we need to start meeting face-to-face with the minister.''

Cr Peter Beck said the way heritage buildings were being pulled down in Christchurch left him feeling impotent.

''It's another example of the way in which the local community, through the council, is being ignored. The view of the people in this city is not being listened to.''

He said a ''true partnership'' was needed between Cera and the council but it did not exist: ''It is a disgrace.''

Cr Glenn Livingstone said: ''This is a loss of democracy; it's like trying to negotiate with kidnappers.''

The committee voted unanimously to express their concern to the Minister of Culture and Heritage, Chris Finlayson, at the delay in getting a recovery plan in place and to seek an urgent meeting with him.

They have also resolved to try and improve the working relationship with Cera so they get earlier notification of heritage buildings that may be demolished so they can work with owners on finding a way to save them.

Council heritage response staff are working with the owners of several threatened buildings to see whether there is any chance they can be saved.

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Reports presented by them yesterday to the committee suggest in some cases they can.

For example, they believe there is no structural or economic reason to demolish the Avon Theatre and that the Nazareth House chapel can be saved if partially deconstructed and strengthened.

However, a Cera spokesman said the Christchurch City Council had access to a range of information regarding heritage buildings and the work carried out on them, and councillors could also seek the information from council staff.

"When engineering information is gathered on buildings and provided to CERA, it is shared with council officials and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust," he said.

Information on demolitions which CERA manages are listed and publicly available on the CERA website. 

"In addition, where demolitions are organised, it is the council which gives approval to traffic management plans or waste management plans associated with this work."

The amended District Plan recognised the need to strengthen and repair remaining buildings and consider new uses in order for them to continue as landmarks.

"The future for remaining heritage buildings lies with the owners and insurers,'' the spokesman said.

While Cera had a statutory role to ensure public safety, decisions around repair, restoration or demolition of heritage buildings rested with the owners and the insurers.

"Some owners will make decisions to demolish, such as the case with Cranmer Courts, while others will be able to achieve cost-effective solutions, such is the case with the Arts Centre,'' the spokesman said.

STILL UNDER THREAT:

Group 1 buildings:
Catholic Cathedral, Barbadoes St
Christ Church Cathedral, Cathedral Square
Christchurch Town Hall, Kilmore St
Excelsior Hotel, Manchester St
Bishopspark, Park Tce
Christchurch Club, Worcester St
Former Chief Post Office facade, Cathedral Square

Group 2 buildings:
State Insurance building, Worcester St
Former Odeon Theatre/Assembly of God, Tuam St
Former Millers department store, Tuam St
Fitzroy/Nurse Maude Medical Hospital, McDougall Ave
Former Majestic Theatre/New Life Centre, Manchester St
Former Wellington Woollen Mills building, Lichfield St
St Albans (Methodist) Church, Papanui Rd
Church of Good Shepherd Vicarage, Phillips St
St Faith's (Anglican) Church, Hawke St
Daresbury, Fendalton Rd
Girl Guides National Headquarters, Armagh St
Former Parkerson House, Heberden Ave
Tiptree cob cottage, Savills Rd

Group 3 buildings:
Lyttelton Tunnel control building, Bridle Path Rd
Nazareth House chapel, Brougham St
Harley Chambers, Cambridge Tce
Former DIC/Cashelfields Aracade, Cashel St
Cashel Chambers facade, Cashel St
Lismore Lodge, Fendalton Rd
Portstone, Ferry Rd
Englefield, Fitzgerald Ave
Former Sargood Son & Ewen Building, Lichfield St
West Avon flats, Montreal St
Christchurch Polytechnic Assembly Hall, Moorhouse Ave
Public Trust Office buidling, Oxford Tce
Caffe Roma (former Midland Club), Oxford Tce
Oxford Tce Pumping Station, Oxford Tce
McKellar & Fleming House, Park Tce
Former Teachers College (Peterborough Centre), Peterborough St
Antonio Hall, Riccarton Rd
Lancaster Park War Memorial Entrance, Stevens St
The Pumphouse, Tuam St
Victoria Mansions, Victoria St
Avon Theatre, Worcester St

- © Fairfax NZ News

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