Submission from IConIC (Interests in Conserving the Identity of Christchurch) and Historic Places Canterbury on Draft Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Plan – 2014

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The following is the text of a submission by Dr Ian Lochhead Associate Professor of Art History University of Canterbury, Chairperson, IConIC,  on behalf of IConIC and H.P.C.

Submission from IConIC (Interests in Conserving the Identity of Christchurch) and Historic Places Canterbury on Draft Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Plan – 2014

IConIC is a public interest heritage advocacy group formed following 22 February 2011 and represents a diverse coalition of central city property and business owners, architects, engineers, planners, heritage professionals and heritage advocates who are all committed to the role heritage buildings play in the economic recovery and social revitalisation of central Christchurch.

Historic Places Canterbury (HPC) is a regional committee of Historic Places Aotearoa, a national heritage advocacy organisation formed to replace the disestablished branch committees of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

1               Thank you for the opportunity to submit on the Draft Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Plan – 2014.  Our organisations recognise the important role that Civil Defence plays in Emergency Management and we make the following submission in full recognition of the crucial role that Civil Defence played in disaster response in Canterbury following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

2               Our submission relates to Civil Defence processes as they relate to heritage buildings in the aftermath of civil emergencies and is based on knowledge gained during the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes.

3               We recognise that heritage is not the primary goal of disaster response in civil emergencies but it is a recognised principle internationally that respect for heritage is an important component of disaster recovery.  For example, Blue Shield is an international organisation specifically tasked with the recovery of cultural heritage in disaster situations.

4               It is also worth noting that New Zealand legislation gives strong weight to the importance of heritage through the provisions of the Historic Places Act 1993 and s. 6 of the Resource Management Act, which recognises built heritage as a matter of national importance.

5               It is our view that in disaster recovery situations everything possible should be done to ensure that damage to cultural property, including built heritage, is minimised, insofar as this is consistent with the primary goal of life safety.

6               It is important that training for first response Civil Defence personnel incorporates a component that stresses the need to recognise the value of cultural heritage generally and built heritage in particular.  The identification and protection of cultural property is a long-established principle in military operations, although sometimes better recognised in theory than in practice, and should equally form a component of Civil Defence practice.

7               IConIC and HPC recommends that Civil Defence documentation of buildings includes information relating to the heritage status of those buildings registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and listed on the district schemes of territorial authorities.

8               We believe this information should form part of a summary of key building data that is available to first responders so that they are aware of not just the heritage status of listed buildings but also of the methods of construction, level of seismic code compliance, presence of dangerous substances and so on for all buildings.

9               There is also a need for clear instructions to be provided to Civil Defence personnel involved in building inspections that as a matter of course all closed doors should be opened by use of the door handle in the first instance. Only when it is established that a door is locked should doors be opened by force.  IConIC is aware of cases in Christchurch post 22 February 2011 where doors in heritage buildings were opened by force, even though these doors were unlocked.  This resulted in needless damage to heritage that could have been easily avoided.

10            To facilitate this process Civil Defence instructions for major disasters should provide information for building owners and occupiers about what to do in terms of securing their property in a situation where an extensive search and rescue operation is likely.  IConIC is aware that at least some building owners in the CBD and inner city of Christchurch were instructed to lock their properties, since to not do so would potentially invalidate their insurance cover.  This resulted in further doors being forcibly opened.  Discussion between Civil Defence and the Insurance Council on this matter would seem to be desirable to ensure that property owners receive consistent and correct advice.

11            While it is recognised that it is an important part of civil defence procedures to leave clear information on buildings signalling that they have been inspected and cleared of occupants, it has been noted that in many cases this information was spray-painted onto masonry walls when it would have been just as possible for the same data to have been recorded on painted surfaces such as doors.  This was a source of considerable frustration to several heritage building owners following the September 2010 earthquake.  CD personnel should be made aware that the recording of building inspection data should, wherever possible, be recorded on surfaces that can be easily restored following the event.

12            We believe that there is a clear need for first-response personnel with heritage knowledge to be available at short notice in the event of any future major civil disaster.  There are not enough NZHPT and TLA heritage staff available in any one area to provide appropriate advice in first response situations when a major disaster affects a large urban area.    There is a need for a national register of people with appropriate heritage management who can be called upon to provide advice during the triage phase of heritage recovery following a major natural disaster.

13            While we welcome the opportunity to make these representations in the context of the Civil Defence Emergency Group Plan for Canterbury our concerns relating to heritage buildings, based on our experience of the Canterbury earthquakes, are equally relevant to the management of heritage in civil emergencies at a national level.

14            IConIC and HPC urge Civil Defence at a national level to engage with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, ICOMOS New Zealand and territorial authorities to develop national protocols and strategies for the management of cultural heritage in natural disasters.  The Canterbury earthquake sequence has demonstrated that current practices have significant limitations and we believe that our nationally important heritage deserves better.




Dr Ian Lochhead
Associate Professor of Art History
University of Canterbury
Chairperson, IConIC



21 February 2014

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