The Earthquake Recovery Minister is failing to take heritage seriously, the Green Party said.
Green MP Eugenie Sage asked the Minister a series of written parliamentary questions to find out what priority CERA gives to heritage but the Minister passed the buck to the building owners, to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and to heritage agencies.
The Minister confirmed that he is not considering reinstating Resource Management Act 1991 consent processes for the demolition of listed heritage buildings so the public will continue to be shut out of decision making.
“Christchurch’s heritage and history is part of the city’s identity and CERA needs to take a more proactive stance to protect it, and allow for public input into decisions,” Ms Sage said.
“The Minister’s claim that “the Government would like to retain as many heritage buildings as possible” has a very hollow ring given CERA’s aggressive demolition strategy and the lack of checks on its powers,” Ms Sage said.
“It’s clear that the Minister sees heritage protection as nothing to do with the city’s recovery despite CERA’s sweeping powers and role.”
The Minister also stated that building owners will be encouraged to repair heritage buildings. In response to Eugenie Sage’s question of how CERA encourages them, the Minister said that they are encouraged.
“This sort of vague plan from the Minister about how to treat these buildings that are so important to Cantabrians is disrespectful and irresponsible,” said Ms Sage.
Eugenie Sage’s questions for written answer with the Ministers responses are in the attached document and pasted below.
For more information:
Eugenie Sage, MP, 021 155 3937
Kena Duignan, Political and Media Advisor, 04 817 6767
Authorised by Eugenie Sage, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
Eugenie Sage’s questions for written answer and the Minister for Earthquake Recovery’s responses
Question: What responsibility does the Minister consider that CERA has for the retention of built heritage in Christchurch?
Answer: Where practical, safe, and affordable to do so, owners of heritage structures are encouraged to repair heritage structures to meet current building codes.
Question: In relation to the Minister’s answer to written question 08761 [above], how are owners of heritage structures encouraged by CERA to repair heritage structures to meet current building codes?
Answer: Where it is possible to repair earthquake-damaged heritage structures to meet current building codes it is encouraged by CERA. However, in many instances this is not possible. Where repair is possible, such as the Arts Centre or the Provincial Chambers, the owners have formed their own view of appropriate method and affordability.
Question: Has CERA declined to issue any s38 demolition notice for heritage buildings and if so which buildings?
Answer: No. Section 38 notices are issued to owners of buildings where earthquake damage has made the building dangerous and work is required to make them safe. CERA has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety risk posed by earthquake damaged dangerous buildings is addressed.
Question: How does the demolition of Cranmer Court implement the outcome statement of the draft Heritage Buildings and Cultural Heritage Places Recovery Programme (May 2012) that “greater Christchurch’s economic and cultural recovery is supported by the contribution of heritage buildings
and places to a strong sense of local identity, a quality urban environment, and the tourism sector"?
Answer: While the Government would like owners to retain as many heritage buildings as possible, the intention of this statement must be balanced against the realities of earthquake damaged structures which pose a risk to the safety of the public.
Question: What rationale, if any, was there for demolition of Cranmer Court to start within days of the recent purchase proposal falling through rather than waiting for another purchase offer?
Answer: The demolition contract had been suspended while the potential purchaser completed due diligence. The owners did not wish to further delay the process.
Question: Will stone and slate roofing tiles be recovered from Cranmer Court during demolition and if so, what quantities?
Answer: Please refer to PQ number 08758 (below).
Question: How does the demolition of Cranmer Court implement the outcome statement of the draft Heritage Buildings and Cultural Heritage Places Recovery Programme (May 2012) that “heritage materials are retrieved safely to enable their reuse”?
Answer: Fabric from the building is being retrieved where it is both safe to do so and where retrieval is funded. Heritage agencies have declined to fund retrieval.
Question: What options is CERA considering to enable the retention of heritage buildings on sites identified by Christchurch Central Development Unit for new structures, such as the NG Building in Madras St?
Answer: CERA will consider such cases on a case by case basis.
Question: When is the Heritage Buildings and Cultural Heritage Places Recovery Programme document expected to be finalised?
Answer: Please refer to PQ number 08765 (below).
Question: How many submissions were received on the draft Heritage Buildings and Cultural Heritage Places Recovery Programme document (May 2012) and who from?
Answer: The Ministry of Culture and Heritage are the lead agency on this project and this question should be directed to them.
Question: What consideration, if any, has been given to reinstating Resource Management Act 1991 consent processes for the demolition of listed heritage buildings so that the public can participate in decision making?
Answer: This is not being considered at the current time.
Question: Is any consideration given to the draft Heritage Buildings and Cultural Heritage Places Recovery Programme document in making decisions about s38 demolition notices and if so, what weight is it given in the decision?
Answer: CERA issues section 38 notices to buildings that are dangerous. CERA is unable to give consideration to draft programmes that have not been implemented.
Question: Are there any circumstances in which CERA would consider buying a heritage building to facilitate its retention and restoration by another future owner; and if so what are they, if not, why not?
Answer: CERA has facilitated owner engagements with potential purchasers of earthquake-damaged heritage buildings such as the Excelsior Hotel. It is noted that the Christchurch City Council and other heritage interests can purchase, or otherwise support, owners of heritage buildings to respond to earthquake damage. It is not CERA’s role to assume the financial or other risks from owners of earthquake-damaged heritage buildings if there are no other parties willing to do so. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust - the Crown Entity with statutory responsibilities for heritage places - is working with owners to help find ways of retaining heritage buildings where this is feasible. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is leading the development of a Heritage Buildings and Cultural Heritage Places Recovery Programme, which will outline the work that is being done to support conservation of heritage buildings.
Question: What consideration has CERA given, if any, to the purchase of heritage buildings to facilitate their retention?
Answer: None, as CERA can only purchase property for the purposes of advancing the recovery of Greater Christchurch. The Government is providing $5 million to assist restoration and strengthening of heritage buildings at the Christchurch Arts Centre. Through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Government continues to match donations to the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Buildings Fund Trust up to a total contribution of $5 million.
Question: Was the possibility of Crown or Christchurch City Council purchase to retain Cranmer Courts considered by CERA before implementing the section 38 notice?
Answer: Considerable time has elapsed since the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes during which time the owners of Cranmer Courts, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), the Historic Places Trust and local authorities have explored several opportunities for retention of the building facade. A Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (CER Act) section 38 notice for the demolition of this unsafe building was issued by CERA on 19 April 2012. In the interval the owners and the Council had not been able to find funding to make retention feasible. Even after the section 38 CER Act notice was issued, CERA further deferred demolition twice, to provide time for newly identified potential purchasers to undertake due diligence. Neither of those potential purchasers decided to proceed with a purchase of the property and the demolition finally commenced in October 2012. I am advised that the suggestion that the Crown may have purchased the building in order to avoid the requirement to respond to the section 38 notice is not a proper consideration for CERA in light of the provisions of the CER Act 2011.
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