Historic Places Canterbury Public Forum Presentation to the Christchurch City Council 10.03.2022

Historic Places Canterbury Public Forum Presentation to the Christchurch City Council

Thursday, 10th March 2022

Mayor and Councillors,

Thank You for allowing me to make this presentation.

Historic Places Canterbury (HPC) has concerns about the processes leading up to and the decision to demolish the Upper Riccarton War Memorial Library. 

Our major concerns are the following:

Lack of Extensive Community Engagement.

HPC considers the community and stakeholders should have had a say in the future of this iconic building, on site since 1919.

After HPC raised its concerns publicly; a Christchurch RSA has been in touch expressing an interest. For myself, within a minute of finishing my live interview with Radio New Zealand’s Jessie Mulligan, a property developer rang asking about strengthening costs. There is interest in the community. 

HPC has received an usually large number of emails expressing opposition to the proposed demolition.

HPC has been told that regular ANZAC services were held at the Library with an attendance of 200 odd people, chairs were lent by the adjacent Spagalimis and a local bakery opening up early to supply food.

Why will the CCC not work with the community to retain and determine a future for this building?

No Heritage Assessment included in the Report to Council.

The CCC Heritage Team did not provide a formal heritage assessment of the building. The question needs to be raised, why were they not asked? A 1919 building called the Upper Riccarton War Memorial Library, any reasonable Christchurch Resident would conclude it should have been assessed by the CCC Heritage Team before a recommendation to demolish.

Surely the CCC should be leading by example? This is a case where Leadership was required.

Some of the Councillors may recall similar circumstances occurred with the Yaldhurst Memorial Hall. We were given assurances then, it would not happen again.

Stating the building was not listed with the HNZPT or scheduled in the District Plan so it has little heritage relevance, the cost, no economic use (as assessed by CCC Staff) are similar arguments used regularly by Property Developers when they plan to demolish. Surely the CCC can do better and lead by example?

CCC Heritage Strategy- Our Heritage Out Taonga

I could find no reference to this Strategy in the report to Council. 

The question is being asked what is the value of this much consulted and supported strategy that a 1919 War Memorial Library Building does not warrant an assessment yet alone a reference to the Strategy in a CCC Report?

Jock Philips in his book “To the Memory” observed there was a transition from Sculptural Monuments (South African/WW1) to Living Memorials (like the WW 2 Memorial Halls). This Library Building, a Living WW1 Memorial, the first of severn, could be significant. It awaits the CCC Heritage Team to make this assessment.

Mark Gerrard 

Chair Historic Places Canterbury

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