“What needs to be done to prevent further heritage destruction following natural disasters?” Note By Dr. Ian Lochhead

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 Dr. Ian Lochhead has generously provided us with a copy of his "Notes for the Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee", submitted in support of the “PROTECT OUR REMAINING HERITAGE: STOP THE DESTRUCTION” Petition. 

Notes for Finance and Expenditure Committee

Heritage is a national resource, defined as being of national importance in the RMA.

What needs to be done to prevent further heritage destruction following natural disasters?

  • Need for robust, readily accessible data on building structures, level of seismic code compliance and heritage status that can be immediately available to Civil Defence in emergency situations.  (An online summary of key building data.) Ignorance should not be an excuse for heritage destruction.
  • Need for first-response personnel with heritage knowledge; there are just not enough NZHPT and TLA heritage staff available so there needs to be a national register of people with the skills required to be drawn in to a disaster scenario for the triage phase of heritage recovery.
  • Civil Defence and USAR need to develop protocols to ensure an understanding of the need to respect heritage structures, and indeed, property in general.  Untold, needless damage occurred in Christchurch as a result of gung-ho actions such as unlocked interior doors of heritage buildings being smashed in because no one thought to turn a door handle. Building status notices were spray-canned onto stone walls when the same message could have been applied to painted wooden doors.  Buildings with no major structural failures had backs torn off with diggers even though owners had already confirmed they had been evacuated.  This further weakened buildings and made repairs more difficult.
  • Ministry of Culture and Heritage needs a national heritage recovery plan template that can be adapted to specific post-disaster situations and brought into play within weeks, rather have a repeat of the complete failure to deliver a timely plan as occurred in Canterbury.
  • MCH or NZHPT needs to initiate a comprehensive, national photographic recording programme of all listed and potentially listable heritage buildings, along the lines of the National Monuments Record in the UK, set up in World War II as a result of the destruction of buildings during the Blitz.  Current photographic records maintained by NZHPT are at the level of snapshots.  Obtaining good quality photographs of some buildings demolished in Christchurch has proven to be difficult and in some cases almost impossible.


Some questions for committee members:

  • Why does Parliament fund the heritage registration function of NZHPT if, when a disaster strikes and listed heritage buildings are damaged, little or no recognition is taken of heritage listings in the decision making process?  What use is such a register if it is only a fair-weather list?
  • Why does Parliament continue to fund the heritage function of MCH when, almost three years since the first Canterbury earthquake it has still not produced the Heritage Recovery Programme document it was tasked with?
  • Why, when Parliament is making cuts and seeking efficiencies across the public sector, is a government department purchasing a brand new building constructed to a higher standard than the current seismic code, in order to demolish it?
  • Why, when global warming is an internationally acknowledged threat to human survival, is Parliament taking no account of either the embodied energy represented by both heritage and other buildings, along with the carbon emissions associated with the unnecessary destruction of heritage and other buildings?  E.g. Majestic Theatre and Town Hall, Westende Building.
  • Why was funding for heritage recovery singled out to be conditional on identified, private contributions?  No other sector has had funding ring-fenced in this way.  Why was the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Restoration Trust not provided with professional staff and properly managed to ensure that it was effective?  Total government funding for heritage equals 1/1300th of the total of $13 billion.


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