Debate rages over heritage Christchurch buildings
NEW Zealand’s earthquake recovery minister has defended his commitment to heritage buildings in devastated Christchurch, saying he had ‘‘ no desire to bring out the bulldozers and take Christchurch to the ground’’.
But Gerry Brownlee yesterday morning stood by comments over the weekend that the government was taking the lead on the issue to ‘‘ punch through the bureaucratic red tape’’.
‘‘ There are many heritagecategory buildings that were severely damaged and if I had my way they’d be down tomorrow, and I stick by that,’’ he said.
‘‘ There is no desire to bring out the bulldozers and take Christchurch to the ground, but there is a huge desire to see the city open up as much as possible and unsafe buildings removed as quickly as possible.’’
Mr Brownlee has been criticised for trying to rush through the demolition of some of Christchurch’s 1600 heritage buildings.
He said yesterday many had been severely damaged and were unlikely to be rebuilt, ‘‘ and I think being realistic about that right up front is important’’.
‘‘ They are becoming community hazards and given the scale of this event I worry a great deal about public health and safety,’’ he said.
‘‘ There is a need to move fairly quickly on these things.’’
Mr Brownlee defended his commitment to heritage in the city, saying he had been chairman of the trust that saved Riccarton House when it was being considered for demolition.
‘‘ I understand conservation architecture very well. I know that where you can successfully save a building for heritage purposes then it can be worthwhile, but I question whether 1600 buildings meet that criteria.’’
He added that focusing on heritage buildings was ‘‘ undue and unacceptable in the current circumstances’’.