Decision angers heritage campaigners

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Campaigners fear for Christchurch's heritage after a last chance reprieve for a group of old farm buildings was rejected by Christchurch City councillors this week.

A Christchurch City Council proposal to buy the century-old farm buildings at Mount Magdala, near Halswell, and save them from demolition was rejected by councillors on Thursday.

Developer Aidanfield Holdings has permission to demolish four of the five historic farm buildings to make way for a new housing development, but has not applied to demolish a central brick granary.

The farm buildings form a cobbled courtyard reminiscent of historic European farmsteads and are rare in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the Christchurch Civic Trust and the Halswell Residents' Association urged the council to buy and restore the buildings for an estimated $752,000.

Historic Places southern general manager, Malcolm Duff, said the decision made him fear for Christchurch's heritage. "I am very disappointed with the outcome of the council meeting and I am now very worried for heritage in Christchurch. This was the first test of the new council's views on heritage. I think there is a danger of this becoming a precedent," he said.

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Christchurch Civic Trust board member Ian Clark said the loss of the farm buildings would be similar to the demolition of the Sunnyside administration building in Hillmorton last May.

"They are not showing leadership. It is another piece of history that will be lost. We lost Sunnyside because the council would not act and now we will lose this," he said.

Councillors rejected the proposal to buy the buildings by eight votes to four. Yani Johanson, Chrissie Williams, Helen Broughton and Bob Shearing voted in favour of the purchase, while Norm Withers, Sally Buck, Mike Wall, Ngaire Button, Sue Wells, Claudia Reid, Gail Sheriff and David Cox voted against.

Johanson said the council had an obligation to protect historic buildings.

"We should have a duty and an obligation to protect our historic buildings. The citizens of our city want us to protect and maintain our heritage. These are special places that tell a story about our past and should be protected for people to enjoy. Once they are gone, they are gone," he said.

Instead of buying the buildings, councillors voted for a compromise proposed by Button to spend $75,000 installing a gazebo on nearby reserve land recording the historic importance of the area and the farm buildings.

Environment Canterbury and the Halswell Residents' Association have appealed the council demolition consent for the buildings to the Environment Court.

 

The Press