Following the devastating February 22, 2011 earthquake, and subsequent aftershocks, the demolition of Christchurch’s architectural heritage has reached an absolute crisis point: Christ Church Cathedral, our most iconic building at the very heart of the city, is already being ‘deconstructed’ – demolished. Bishop Matthews and CERA will not listen to reason. But the building can be restored, top seismic engineers, master stonemasons and other heritage experts all concur.
CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) has authorised the demolition of about 200 listed heritage buildings and non-listed character buildings which contributed to the distinctive character of the city. We believe, on sound engineering advice, that a significant number of these could have been stabilised, repaired and strengthened to continue as a vital part of the city's history and to contribute to its social and economic well-being – including Christ Church Cathedral.
Many more heritage and character buildings are under serious threat of demolition, including the former Chief Post Office in the Square, Cranmer Courts and The Peterborough Centre (two important elements of the Gothic Revival legacy of Christchurch), the Odeon Theatre, the Majestic Theatre (Christchurch’s first fully steel-framed building, 1930) and the former Christchurch Railway Station.
A stop to the demolitions and stocktake of what is left is well overdue! We must have robust, peer - reviewed assessments made by engineers with experience in the seismic strengthening of unreinforced masonry building. CERA and - in the case of Christ Church Cathedral - Bishop Matthews and church authorities, owe it to heritage architecture specialists, to heritage groups and to the citizens of Christchurch to have a much more open dialogue about the fate of what little remains of our priceless city heritage.
CERA has authorised the demolition of more than 1,100 Christchurch inner city buildings. Many of these buildings have heritage character, are registered with the Historic Places Trust and/or listed in the Christchurch City Plan and contribute to our distinctive streetscapes. CERA is emphasising demolition ahead of retention and repair. Christchurch has lost too many heritage buildings with no public input. It's time to stop, reflect and protect what remains of the city's historic character.
I call on CERA to stop the demolition of Christchurch heritage buildings, do an urgent stocktake of remaining buildings and their significance, and consult the public on priorities and funding for protection, repair and strengthening.