De­bate rages over her­itage Christchurch build­ings

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

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’’.

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