Saturday, September 15, 2012

Christchurch history comes at a great price...

Was the demolition of Christ Church cathedral really necessary?
OPINION: Christchurch feels like a city under attack.So much of its central business district has been demolished that its streets are unrecognisable, even to those of us who have spent most of our lives here.The inner-city area within the Four Avenues is described by locals increasingly in terms of a war zone. Comparisons with Kabul or Baghdad abound.Citizens are in a state of shock and many avoid the CBD altogether, grief-stricken at how much of their city has been destroyed – not by earthquakes, but by order of the Canterbury Earthquakes Recovery Authority (Cera).According to Warwick Isaacs, Chief Executive of the Central City Development Unit (CCDU) who is backed by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, the demolitions will not cease until 20 per cent of the original CBD remains.After the February 22 2011 earthquake, Dr Kit Miyamoto, a structural seismic engineer with 25 years’ international experience in earthquake recovery, stated he believed that, at the most, about 30 per cent of the CBD might need to be demolished. The announcement that 80 per cent is to be demolished he later described as “unbelievable”.
To make way for the increasingly criticised CCDU blueprint, priority projects such as the green frame, a convention centre (three times the size of the previous one), and a covered 35,000-seat stadium, Cera chief executive Roger Sutton has said 1200 existing inner-city sites must be “repackaged”. Translation: a great number of inner-city properties must be sold to the Government at whatever price it offers. Yet more buildings will be demolished, including the few remaining heritage buildings.
Included in the green frame, which is to be in place as early as March, are listed heritage buildings which include the Christchurch Town Hall, the old Civic Offices, the Odeon Theatre and the Majestic Theatre. By June this year, 117 listed heritage buildings, representing 51 per cent of total heritage stock in the Central City (within the Four Avenues and Red Zone), had already been demolished and another 13 were slated for partial demolition. Approximately 100 of those demolished had recently undergone restoration work costing more than $3.5m from the public purse.
It seems there is no end in sight to the destruction deemed necessary for the city’s recovery. Clearly two major casualties of the new city plan for Christchurch are property rights and cultural heritage identity.
Especially vocal in their criticism of the CCDU blueprint are property owners in the CBD who owned or still own heritage buildings. The proposed green frame was initially applauded as a way of maximising green space in the new city. However, it is now regarded by many property owners as a cynical means of setting up a land bank to manipulate land values within the new CBD so the Government can profit later from the disaster at their expense.    Petes Place






No comments: