Historic Places Canterbury supports Christchurch Civic Trust call for retention of former Christchurch Railway Station.
Historic Places Canterbury firmly supports the Christchurch Civic Trust’s call for the retention of the former Christchurch Railway Station.
This is an important Historic Places Trust Group 2 building with a unique place in the history of New Zealand metropolitan railway stations. It was the last to be built on a grand scale and the twenty or so years from design to its opening in 1960 spanned the momentous period from the end of the Great Depression to the nation’s post-World War 2 recovery years.
A recent report prepared by the CCC Heritage Recovery Team report for CERA dated May 17, 2012, states: “The heritage response team recommends retention and repair of this significant heritage building based on its heritage value and the engineering information supplied.”
HPC notes with great concern that although the building is not a danger to the public, its demolition will be commissioned under s38 and managed by CERA, thus allowing the owners to avoid having to follow RMA process involving public notification of the proposal to demolish a protected building.
Science Alive! C E Neville Petrie claims that the building is uneconomic to repair, quoting a sum of approximately $30m (The Press, June 26, 2012.) Previously he had stated “I couldn’t imagine that Science Alive! would be re-establishing itself in the old railway station.” (The Press, January 10, 2012.) In this context HPC wonders why, rather than wholesale removal and rebuilding of damaged parts, alternative heritage friendly cost-effective methods such as epoxy resin were not fully explored and costed. The former Christchurch Railway Station represents a major piece of local and national transportation and architectural heritage capital. It references inter-war Dutch modernist architecture, the design by Gray Young, Morton and Young in 1937 showing a huge leap from the firm’s neoclassical design for Wellington Railway Station of only a few years earlier.
In the CBD urban design context of Moorhouse Avenue and city south, the building acts as a powerful focus and anchor, linking strongly in materials and or structural style to other major Moorhouse Avenue brick clad buildings. It should be noted that the Harvey Norman Centre in the strengthened former Dalgetys Woolstore is to re-open and that it is possible that the almost undamaged Rialto building will in fact be extended.
In 2006 a recommendation came from the CCC Central City South – Future Directions Charrette that the former Station be developed in the long term as a transit hub; the recent call by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism for a location of the railway station closer to the city centre echoes this idea. HPC considers that a city of 400,000 needs a substantial and conveniently located railway station/ transportation hub, a sentiment shared by much of the wider public.
Given the post-February 22 rise of Sydenham and Addington, the location of the former Christchurch Railway Station has an even greater potential importance. A mixed usage, involving transportation, retail, accommodation and entertainment would in fact be possible. With CPIT and the restored Grosvenor Hotel nearby, the contribution the fully strengthened building could make to this whole area would be considerable.
Historic Places Canterbury is an independent regional society affiliated to Historic Places Aotearoa. In response the legislation before Parliament the NZHPT Canterbury Branch Committee has transitioned to this new heritage organisation. HPC is passionate about the retention of our remaining architectural heritage. It considers the proposed demolition of the Former Christchurch Railway Station to be a complete travesty and calls on individuals and groups to support its retention and redevelopment.