Submission to CCC by Lorraine North, Chair, Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust, October 11 2012 re Cranmer Courts

Submission to CCC by Lorraine North, Chair, Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust,
October 11 2012 re Cranmer Courts

• As Cranmer Courts continue to be trashed, I am left wondering why the decision-makers in this community, which I thought was so proud of its distinctive Gothic Revival architecture, are failing to actively engage with saving the little that now remains.


• I think part of the answer lies in this city’s failure to grasp the high importance attached by the international community to the preservation of cultural heritage, in whatever form it presents itself, and wherever it might be found.


• In the spirit of the 1964 Venice Charter, we re-asserted internationally in 2010 that:

“New Zealand shares a general responsibility with the rest of humanity to safeguard its cultural heritage places for present and future generations “


• Since the Hague Convention of 1954 crimes against art and architecture have been forbidden internationally

• and even the US and Russian military now have heritage training programmes for their troops, to ensure sites local cultural significance are not intentionally destroyed


• For many decades UNESCO has been passing declarations to protect sites of cultural significance throughout the world


• New Zealand has voted in favour of these declarations , or been a signatory to them, so any intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites in this country contravenes our international treaty obligations, and may be in breach of international law.


The two most significant and relevant UNESCO declarations I wish to mention today are outlined as follows (with more detail on your A4 sheets):


I. The UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1972. NZ is a signatory of that landmark action. Among the many provisions is Article 4, in which it is recognised that the state is responsible for the conservation of cultural and natural heritage, and for its transmission to to future generations


Article 5 expands on this in that States are obliged:


• 1) to give the cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes.

Regarding the second declaration, after the Taliban destroyed the Great Buddhas of Barmiyan in 2001...

• II. UNESCO passed their “Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage” in 2003 .The measure passed unanimously, including a vote from NZ. Among provisions such as: “States should take all appropriate measures to stop acts of intentional destruction of cultural heritage”, there are also criminal provisions, applying to both the state and the individual.


• [Clause VI – Re State responsibility “A State that intentionally destroys or intentionally fails to take appropriate measures to prohibit, stop and punish any intentional destruction of cultural heritage, bears the responsibility for such destruction, to the extent provided for by international law.


• Clause VII –Re Individual criminal responsibility . States should take all appropriate measures, in accordance with international law, to provide effective criminal sanctions against, those persons who commit, or order to be committed, acts of intentional destruction of cultural heritage (whether or not it is inscribed on a list maintained by UNESCO or another international organization).


It interesting to note that General Pavle Strugar was successfully prosecuted in the International Court of Justice at the Hague for deliberately damaging the world heritage site of Dubrovnic in Croatia. (Military Review, US, March-April 2012 p39) ]


• By way of contrast to UNESCO’S position, Minister of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee’s stated position on heritage buildings was: “The old dungers, I don’t care what their connection, are going under the hammer”


• This certainly has been achieved. However, the aim of Cera’s “Heritage Buildings and Heritage Places Recovery Programmes” clearly has not. This was stated as follows: “To ensure heritage buildings and places remain as points of recognition and continuity in an altered environment”

• The urban designer charged with creating the CCDU blueprint for the inner city redevelopment , Don Miskell, has been quoted as saying he believes the city’s focus should now be on our more distant past and on the future

• This is all well and good, but one has to ask: why should he believe it to be essential for the recovery of Christchurch to leap frog in this way over its most significant and characteristic architectural features ? A building like Cranmer Courts not only symbolises our highest founding principles as a city, and is a vital part of our local tourist economy, but is one we also have an international obligation to preserve if we are to retain our international credibility.



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