Draft Heritage Building and Places Recovery Programme for Greater Christchurch – (Text Of) Submission By Historic Places Aotearoa

"The fact that the draft document remains a draft over 3 years after the event and will not be binding is symptomatic of a major problem with the document. It is ineffectual in what it offers and is far too late to be of any significant assistance..."
The following is the text of Historic Places Aotearoa submission.


Patron: Dame Anne Salmond, DBR, FRSNZ, FBA
2013 New Zealander of the Year

16 March 2014

Draft Heritage Building and Places Recovery Programme for Greater Christchurch

This submission is made by Historic Places Aotearoa Inc. (HPA). HPA was formed in 2010 as a national non-government organisation to replace the role of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) in representing and co-ordinating the activities of new regional societies to replace Branch Committees of the NZHPT. NZHPT Branches are to be disestablished under current proposed legislation – the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill.

Heritage is HPA’s core business to promote preservation of historic places in Aotearoa New Zealand. We also promote the education of the public in the appreciation of heritage values. We are a key stakeholder in the consultation process and answerable to our affiliated regional societies and membership.

In making this submission we acknowledge and vehemently support the submissions made by Historic Places Canterbury and ICONIC (Interests in Conserving the Identity of Christchurch).

HPA wishes to express the following significant points with regard to this heritage recovery programme:

1. CERA is still acting with no formal heritage policy.

2. Even with this programme in place it has no formal official standing.

3. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust, New Zealand’s leading government agency for heritage does not have a formal role at the decision making level.

4. This document does not mention international best practice as befits the ICOMOS agreement.

5. After waves of consultation since this document was first mooted in December 2011 it brings into question the role of heritage in New Zealand within the Ministry of Culture.

History tells the story of our past and is an important part of Canterbury’s story – they are inseparable from our local, regional, national and cultural identities. Canterbury’s built heritage has provided inspiration for artistic creativity and a foundation for tourism and economic development.

There has been a groundswell of interest in heritage in Canterbury and recognition of its social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits, and awareness of its importance since the Canterbury earthquakes. But we are still losing heritage places at an unacceptable rate through the ‘scorched earth’ programme of an unsympathetic government department – CERA, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Given the legislative provision for and protection associated with the listing of historic heritage, and the resources devoted to registration at national level and listing at local level, it seems incomprehensible that the protection of heritage was effectively set aside by the CER Act, 2011. If heritage listings are not given weight when heritage is at greatest risk of destruction as the result of natural disasters, what is the value of devoting resources to such listings in the first place?

The fact that the draft document remains a draft over 3 years after the event and will not be binding is symptomatic of a major problem with the document. It is ineffectual in what it offers and is far too late to be of any significant assistance. Too many buildings which could have been saved, had a serious programme of recovery been in place, are now lost. The majority of important buildings that remain are being restored through the efforts of willing owners rather than because of any substantial assistance from a recovery programme.

In the face of the greatest destruction of heritage from a single event in New Zealand’s history, this delay is utterly inexcusable and calls into question the commitment of Government to the protection of the nation’s built heritage. Had an effective Heritage Recovery Plan, incorporating a much more rigorous process and clear criteria for decision making with the regard to heritage demolitions, been implemented in a more timely fashion it is likely that many more heritage buildings in greater Christchurch would already be making a significant contribution to the recovery as a whole.

The document devotes a great deal of space to describing processes that have been in place, processes which, as already noted, have allowed large scale loss. In many instances, the processes described in the document are no different from the measures of assistance which would be in place regardless of whether an earthquake had occurred, for example the provision of expert assistance and access to various heritage incentive grants.

Given the manifest failure of the processes to date one would have expected a discussion of additional future mechanisms to assist the recovery of those heritage buildings that remain. So far from doing so, the document in fact even fails to identify which key buildings remain and are in need of assistance. The failure to have in place an adequate programme for recovery of heritage, highlights the urgent need for the MCH to develop an adequate template for heritage recovery to assist in any future major disaster. The present programme most definitely does not constitute an adequate basis for such a template. There needs to be consultation in the very near future on what such a template should contain.

The non-binding process set out in Box 2 has proven woefully inadequate for dealing with issues relating to heritage buildings. Those buildings are now gone and improvement in the process needs to form part of the development of a satisfactory template for future disaster events. However, now that all seriously dangerous buildings have been removed or ringed off and the frequency and intensity of aftershocks has diminished, it is time for the restoration of normal RMA processes. Although there have been signs in recent weeks that CERA is now taking a more considered approach to decisions on heritage buildings the general restoration of RMA processes in the central city would bring Christchurch back in line with its neighbours in Selwyn and Waimakariri.

Another solution toward heritage recovery would be the mothballing of heritage buildings and is a recovery strategy that should be identified within the document. Making buildings both safe and weather tight to allow them to remain in an unrestored condition until such time that technical or economic solutions can be found to allow for their recovery is a well-tried strategy and has been adopted for the Provincial Council Buildings and, to a less comprehensive degree, with the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. This process should be identified as a strategy that can be adopted by other building owners to ensure that hasty demolitions do not occur and to prevent on-going deterioration of the fabric of damaged buildings due to exposure to the elements.

The draft document adopts a stance of complacency that assumes that what has been achieved in terms of heritage recovery is as much as could have been expected. HPA is of the view that not only could much more have been done, but had the recovery of heritage been handled differently the recovery as a whole would be much further advanced.

In conclusion, HPA is disappointed that the Recovery programme is largely a document about what has happened and is happening at present. The failure to list remaining heritage buildings or to provide a clear strategy for restoration of the most import of these is extremely disappointing. Many people have made a tremendous commitment to heritage in Christchurch and they deserve better support than is provided in this programme.

HPA requests that for the final document:

1. It is fast tracked for it to become officially recognised government policy for the protection of heritage in Canterbury and Christchurch as CERA is a government department.

2. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust, New Zealand’s leading government agency for heritage, is immediately given a formal role at the decision making level.

3. That the ICOMOS charter is incorporated.


Dr. Anna Crighton QSO JP PhD

Historic Places Aotearoa
P O Box 693
Christchurch 8041

Comments are closed.