Heritage building will not be demolished

Last updated 05:00 27/02/2014
Public Trust Office Christchurch
Daniel Tobin

HERITAGE: The Public Trust Office housed the popular Wagamama restaurant.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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The heritage-listed Public Trust Office in central Christchurch will not be demolished under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act.

In November, Christchurch businessman Ben Gough applied to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) for a section 38 notice that would allow the demolition of the Oxford Tce building.

The New Zealand Heritage Places Trust told Cera the building should be retained.

Cera chief executive Roger Sutton yesterday told The Press that the application had been declined because it did not meet the act's criteria.

"This merely means they can't demolish it under this part of the act . . . but the owners have other avenues available, such as going down the Resource Management Act (RMA) path.

"This doesn't mean we have a view that it should be restored."

Ben Gough said applying for the section 38 notice had been a difficult decision to make and there were "many elements to consider" - including the safety of the building, tenants' requirements and the cost of bringing the building up to new standards.

Applying to demolish it under the RMA was "still an option", he said.

This would involve a notified resource consent application where the public and heritage groups could make submissions.

"We need to take advice . . . and we don't have any strong views on how we can move forward because we haven't a chance to make these decisions yet," he said.

The extent of the work that would be required to bring the building up to code would "make things very challenging".

"And [we would] end up compromising the historical elements we are trying to retain."

Before the earthquakes, the Public Trust building housed law firm Young Hunter, Layburn Hodgins, Adderley Head, Tailorspace Investments, Wagamama and Tru bar.

Young Hunter partner Ian Hunt said the building was cold and dated inside.

"From my point of view it's a building that is past its time.

"Ben spent a hell of a lot of money on it . . . and he should be allowed to get on with it."

He said the firm's interior fit-out was removed and destroyed to enable engineers to determine whether or not the building could be restored.

The firm had since moved to Victoria St - the "centre of the universe" for lawyers, Hunter said.

Cera has issued 998 section 38 notices, including section 39 notices where 10 days' notice is not required.

Five applications have been declined.

Gough is controlling shareholder and deputy chairman of Gough Holdings, one of the city's biggest family-owned companies.

Historic Places Aotearoa president Anna Crighton said declining the section 38 was the "only credible decision".

"If Cera had allowed for the demolition of that building . . . it would have made a mockery of the Cera Act."

She knew of one other heritage-listed building that Cera had declined a section 38 application for - the old post office building in Cathedral Square.

"I think Cera are now backing off section 38s for heritage buildings for the simple fact that the ones left standing can be repaired." Crighton said the RMA should be "the only way" to apply to demolish a heritage building because people could argue for or against it.

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- The Press


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