Submission from HPC on
Draft Heritage Building and Places Recovery Programme for Greater Christchurch
This Submission is made by Historic Places Canterbury (HPC) an independent regional society affiliated to Historic Places Aotearoa (HPA). HPC is the NZHPT approved body which the Canterbury Branch Committee has transitioned to. Our objectives are the protection of heritage and providing local advocacy on heritage.
The fact that this programme 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, and 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. The document devotes a great deal of spaces 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.
There has been little or no increase in resourcing for these functions. The one major additional source of funding provided, the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage fund was a grant of up to 5million dollar for dollar assistance from Government for privately owned properties. (plus 5million for the Arts Centre) This Canterbury-wide fund was not increased after the February quake despite the huge increase in the magnitude of the disaster. The conditional sum offered contrasts most unfavourably with unconditional grants made to other sectors and the amount is derisory. As a measure of the inadequacy of the existing processes, it should be noted that several important buildings identified as significant enough for specific fundraising appeals by the Fund have subsequently been lost, despite sizable sums being raised. ( The most serious loss was the Cramner Courts Building, a building of such historic and landmark significance that there should have been no question of its loss, especially given that it was readily recoverable.)
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 a such a template. There needs to be a consultation in the very near future on what such a template should contain.
Comments on Specific aspects of the programme
Objectives of the Plan
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the authors of this document view heritage as an impediment to recovery. The programme aims to achieve an 'appropriate balance 'between protection and the need for recovery to proceed quickly and within available funding. The clear
implication is that retaining heritage will of necessity impede recovery. There is no discussion of what criteria might be applied to reach the determination of an appropriate balance. In the light of the significant losses that have already occurred in Christchurch, continued talk of “appropriate balance” can only ring alarm bells. The balance has long since been weighted in favour of “recovery” . ( It should be noted that the figure cited in the document of 53% heritage surviving in Christchurch (or 165 out of 309) understates the extent of the loss . The website
http://canterburyearthquakedemolist.weebly.com/ managed by HPC lists 207 lost to date in Christchurch City, not including Lyttelton.)
The implicit assumption that retaining heritage will slow down development is disproved by the reality of the situation in Christchurch. in fact, with the exception of the temporary Restart Mall, it is heritage buildings which have led the recovery of the CBD – Alices in Videoland, New Regent Street, The Heritage Hotel, Bonningtons Building , Cathedral Junction with its heritage facade and the Arts Centre. The Theatre Royal is due to open this year. More heritage buildings would now be contributing to the recovery of the CBD if their owners had been permitted to make safe and get on with strengthening when they wished to do so soon after the quakes.
By implying that heritage retention will be an impediment to recovery the document also completely downplays the economic reasons for saving heritage. Rather than seeing that money spent on heritage will produce a sound economic return, the emphasis on a balance between heritage protection and spending within available funding tends to suggests a belief that money spent on heritage generates no wider economic benefits, despite some lip service to acknowledgement of its economic and social importance in Outcome 1. A more convincing recognition of the economic importance of heritage is needed.
International studies on the economics of heritage restoration and the adaptive reuse of buildings show that it creates more jobs and contributes more to the economy than new construction. Heritage restoration is characterised by labour intensity as opposed to material intensity for new construction . There are numerous studies showing it creates more jobs, both direct and indirect, than new construction
International experience also shows that city revitalization seldom succeeds where heritage is destroyed. Heritage provides a point of difference, attracts entrepreneurs as well as small businesses. A range of buildings of diverse sizes, ages and characters provides the mix of rental structures that attracts the wide variety of interdependent commercial operations that characterise successful urban centres. Heritage buildings are an essential part of this mix . They are natural incubators for small business because they are usually relatively affordable. This will remain true in most cases even with the need to strengthen to higher levels than at present.
Retaining and reusing existing built stock reduces our carbon footprint and extends the economic life of buildings. e.g. Donovan Rypkema international expert on the economics of heritage points out that demolishing a typical North America commercial building – 7.5 meters wide and 36 meters feet deep wipes out the entire environmental benefit from the last 1,344,000 aluminum cans that
were recycled.. And that calculation only considers the impact on the landfill. Razing historic buildings results in a triple hit on scarce resources:
1) loss of thousands of dollars of embodied energy.
2) replacing it with materials which generally consume vastly more energy
3)loss of the recurring embodied energy savings which increase dramatically as a building life stretches over fifty years.
For all these reasons retention of heritage should be viewed as a vital path to economic recovery, not to mention psychological, social and cultural recovery.
What heritage survives?
This section of the recovery programme gives nominal recognition to the heritage value of groupings of buildings or precincts, with mention of the Gothic Revival Precinct around the Arts Centre ( the importance of the Cathedral to this Gothic Revival Christchurch is inexplicably
ignored) and the Spanish Mission Style of New Regent Street. In reality, however, the programme demonstrates no real understanding of the importance of precincts where not every building may be worthy of individual listing. We understand that Cera did not even consult Christchurch City Council Heritage team when making decision on group 3 or 4 buildings. Equally there seems to be little recognition of the wider importance of heritage buildings as part of the quality of the overall urban design. All hope is for urban design is pinned on “the heritage of the future” but given the engineering and other constraints facing developers in the post- quake environment it is likely that the “design” element will be pared back to a minimum.
Processes in place to make decisions on earthquake damaged buildings.
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 need 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.
Providing Financial Assistance
We have already discussed the inadequacy of the CEHB fund. This fund ceases in June 2015. The programme indicates that a review of whether the funds could be distributed more efficiently was undertaken half way through its term. The results have apparently not yet been released and at this stage it would seem rather late in the piece to be very useful. It is to be hoped that as part of that review, the adequacy of the whole structure set up to administer the fund has also been reviewed.
It is apparent that the commitment to funding heritage has been woefully inadequate. With the exception of the earthquake fund, other sources of funding outlined in the programme are those which were already in place pre-earthquake, though the allocated sums have been modestly increased in some cases. Had there been a commitment to providing professional fundraising support for the Earthquake Heritage Fund the situation might have been better. A substantial financial injection into a revolving fund supported by professional project managers would have almost certainly produced better outcomes for heritage. The Christchurch Heritage Trust which already existed, could have provided a basis for building on this approach. The Trust is not even mentioned in the document.
HPC supports the Heritage Recovery projects set out in the programme. However we wish to make it clear, that despite the merits of retrieving heritage fabric and using digital media and conventional archives to keep memories alive, there is no way in which such projects can be seen as a substitutes for protection of actual buildings. While the aim should be to retain buildings as a whole whenever possible, we recognize that in some situations restoring or even reconstructing facades alone will be the best outcome that can be achieved. This approach, though frowned upon by some heritage purists, recognizes the vital contribution of heritage to memory and to streetscape and urban design values.
HPC endorses the submission of IconIC calling for a Museum of Christchurch Architecture (p.18); the need for to develop a policy on dealing with stained glass (p.16) and the need to ensure that Project 4 facilitates heritage retention ( p.27). We also share the concerns of IconIC about the dangers of indiscriminate inclusion of retrieved fabric in new buildings. Done well this can certainly enhance cultural memory and we support the general intent, but we believe the suggestion by IConIC of forming guidelines is worthwhile (p.16).
HPC believes that a further project urgently needs to be included in the recovery plan. The earthquake experience has shown that many engineers are poorly equipped to deal with the issues around strengthening of unreinforced masonry buildings. The bulk of their training and experience has been in modern building techniques. This has lead to decisions to demolish where an engineer experienced in best earthquake strengthening techniques might have found a satisfactory and cost effective solution. The importance of Project 2, determining the best methods of strengthening heritage buildings, cannot be underestimated, but unless it is also accompanied by a serious programme to up-skill engineers in the best methods of repairing and strengthening such buildings little is likely to be achieved. Such training needs to be a required element of professional development.
In conclusion, HPC 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.
Lynne Lochhead (Secretary)
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