AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
was hugely relieved to learn, as news emerged after we had all been shaken
awake on 4 September, that the buildings of the Arts Centre had suffered only
minor damage. What a tribute that was to the work of members of past Arts
Centre Trust Boards who had made sure that the buildings were steadily strengthened
against possible earthquakes. That was the main lesson many people concerned
about the city’s heritage drew from the aftermath of the quake – that if we
want our historic buildings to survive, they must all be strengthened. Almost
all the buildings which had been strengthened, even if it was to only a limited
degree, withstood the tremors. Good engineering interventions in previous
decades have meant that most of our top-ranked heritage buildings – and they
include the buildings of the Arts Centre which are the special concern of SOAC –
have come through the earthquake with only moderate damage and can be repaired
in a controlled fashion with limited loss of original material.
Ian Lochhead has observed that, as someone engaged with the architectural heritage
of Christchurch for more than 30 years, instead of feeling “hopelessness and
despair” after the earthquake he has experienced “an enormous sense of relief
and optimism. We now know that the strengthening of heritage buildings works,
and that it is money well spent. We have found that even modest strengthening
efforts can produce major benefits. Even unstrengthened buildings have, in many
cases, performed better than we dared expect. We can now start the long process
of securing, restoration and reconstruction.”
everyone else who cares about Christchurch we were devastated that so many ‘character’
buildings – buildings which contribute to the character of the city but had not
been listed by the City Council or registered by the Historic Places Trust –
were damaged. We sympathise with all those people who have now-damaged historic
buildings in their care and face difficult decisions about what to do.
was left of some of the damaged buildings has already been demolished. Our main
concern is that decisions are not made hastily and rashly. We have real fears
that hasty decisions to demolish may result in the loss of buildings that could
still be saved, if time is taken to make careful assessments and engage people
with the necessary expertise. The experiences of past urban earthquakes, here
in New Zealand and elsewhere, are that cities have subsequently regretted
hastily pulling down buildings that could have been saved.
are not suggesting, of course, that public safety should be compromised, or
that the economic interests of individual building or business owners be
ignored – only urging that caution and careful consideration be the order of
the day when the fates of damaged buildings are being decided over the next few
believes that with care, ingenuity and sufficient money most of the damaged
buildings can be saved. Along with ICOMOS New Zealand (a national historic
heritage group), SOAC urges the City Council to take particular care in
assessing heritage or character buildings before permission is given to
demolish any of them.
Lochhead has stated that “Many buildings that look in a grim state can, in
fact, be saved. There should be no precipitate clearing or removal of heritage
buildings or structures, and priority should be given to stabilisation, repair
and reconstruction.” Undue haste to get back to normal should not be allowed to
compromise the long-term objectives of repair and reconstruction of heritage. SOAC does not want to see innumerable parking lots or mediocre structures where
heritage buildings once stood. replacement of some heritage and character buildings will undoubtedly be necessary but lets ensure we rebuild a city we can all be proud of.
The proposed music school which was turned down by the Commissioners
Archive of Articles Relating to the
proposed Music School
[ click here ]
Save Our Arts Centre began in July 2009 when Richard Sinke of the Dux de Lux invited a group of people who shared concerns about the proposal to build a music school for the University of Canterbury at the Arts Centre of Christchurch to meet on a regular basis to exchange information and ideas. From this informal grouping the idea grew that a more formal society should be formed which would not only fight the current proposal, but would continue to take an interest in how the Arts Centre is managed for the benefit of the people of Christchurch.
The Society was formally incorporated in October 2009. The main objects of the Society are to benefit the community by:
(a) Protecting and securing to the Members of the Society and the people of Christchurch their rights, entitlements and interests in the social, cultural, heritage, historical, public open space and public amenity benefits of the Arts Centre of Christchurch (the “Arts Centre”) as gifted to the people of Christchurch.
(b) Supporting the campaign to acquire United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Status for the collection of gothic revival buildings (including the Arts Centre) in Christchurch.
(c) Promoting the New Zealand ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural
Download the full Constitution here
. Needless to say, our focus so far has been on protecting and securing the Arts Centre.
- We ran an information campaign aimed at getting factual information and expert opinion into the public arena. This has included establishing this website, writing opinion pieces in the newspapers, letters to the editor and interviews on radio and television.
- We successfully campaigned for the Council to hold a consultation on the proposed funding by Council. Although this was limited to issues of financing it provided an opportunity for many to participate and gained us valuable time to better inform the public about the issues.
- We used the Ombudsman's powers to successfully demand the release of key financial information, including the amount of the proposed City Council loan of $24.3 million, which had been withheld by the Council from the public.
- We made very strong submissions to the Council consultation. Some Councillors changed from their previous support for the proposal, but not quite enough. In the end the vote was 7-6 to grant the loan.
- We ran a petition against the proposal signed by over 4500 people. Unfortunately this did not sway the Council.
- We filed a claim in the High Court to challenge the validity of the changes made to the Trust Deed by the Arts Centre Trust Board, as well as the validity of the Council decision because of predetermination. We have withdrawn that claim since since the Resource Consent application failed.
- We filed for an interim injunction to prevent the Resource Consent hearing from taking place until the above issues have been resolved in the High Court. We did not succeed in preventing the hearing but we were successful in getting a the subdivision application notified.
- We presented evidence before the Commissioners on the Resource Consent application and were successful in having the Resource Consent turned down.
SOAC works closely with other like-minded organisations such as the Christchuch Civic Trust and ICON.