Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Heritage matters too

by Ben Schrader

Heritage matters too

It is not to be unexpected that in the wake of Christchurch’s February 22 earthquake that public anger would be directed at those buildings that collapsed and killed or maimed Cantabrians. This is not uncommon in such cataclysmic events overseas. Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee declared on March 5 that as far as he was concerned ‘most of Christchurch’s heritage buildings would be bowled tomorrow.’ Forgetting that most deaths occurred with the collapse of the relatively modern CTV and PGC Buildings, he further stated that ‘old buildings killed people when they toppled during the earthquake and can’t remain.’ Perhaps as a sop, he suggests a few iconic buildings like Christ Church cathedral could be rebuilt – “but that’s it”. It seems most of Cabinet agrees and government departments and agencies involved with Canterbury heritage have fallen into line – as they are bound to do.

What Gerry wants is the creation of a completely modern city that will create ‘future heritage’ in the manner of Art Deco Napier – rebuilt after the catastrophic 1931 quake. Does this mean we’ll have to wait 50 plus years before rebuilt Christchurch develops the patina of heritage? During the 1970s and 80s most citizens of Napier saw their CBD as antiquated and obsolete. It was in a twilight zone: too young to be seen as heritage; too old to be considered modern. It was only when some key Art Deco Buildings in the 1980s began to be demolished that citizens awoke to the jewel at their feet.

In other words, it will take at least 50 years before Gerry’s ‘future heritage’ actually becomes heritage. And who is to say that that much of rebuilt Christchurch will survive the normal forces of capitalist redevelopment to even get that far. Napier’s Art Deco CBD only made it into the 1980s because its economy was flat and there was no pressure to rebuild it. It is doubtful that Christchurch, being the economic powerhouse of the South Island, will go the same way. Pockets of the rebuilt city will remain, but to think we will have something akin to Napier in 50 years is fanciful.

So what’s the point of demolishing what heritage fabric that still exists in Christchurch’s CBD to create a future city that will not even survive the future. Isn’t far better to keep that heritage that can be saved and strengthened to modern standards and integrate this within the new city? Wouldn’t this make a richer, more interesting and meaningful city centre? This way Cantabrians and visitors alike will be able to see manifest in the city’s streets before and after earthquake stories – not just after. To keep only a few iconic buildings deemed by Gerry as worthy is akin to creating a heritage freakshow and degrades us all.

I can only hope that in days ahead wiser heads than Gerry’s will prevail and Cantabrians and other New Zealanders will rise up against such vandalism to the historic heart of Christchurch. If not, we can say goodbye to places like Cuba Street in Wellington when the ‘big one’ hits here – the precedent will have been set. We can all be angry the failure of some historic buildings to protect lives on the 22 February, but to use this an excuse to raze the city is unnecessary and wrong. While the demolition of historic buildings may be cathartic for some, we can also be sure that future generations will be angry with us for sitting back and letting it happen. It must not.

**
Ben Schrader is a Wellington freelance historian with expertise in urban history and heritage. His last major book was We Call it Home: A history of state housing in New Zealand.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The US Foreign Policy Somersaults Over Syria And Iran

Amidst the day-to-day reports about the military advances of the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, one remarkable aspect of this war has barely been mentioned. More>>

ALSO:

Daphne Lawless: The Whale Oil Leaks: Anti-Politics From Above

As we go to press, the election campaign has been turned upside down by a new book by investigative journalist Nicky Hager. Dirty Politics is based mainly on a leak of 2 gigabytes of emails and Facebook messages from “Whale Oil”, the vicious ... More>>

ALSO:

Branko Marcetic: When John Key Was Concerned About Dirty Politics

If Nicky Hager needs some support in the midst of a whirlwind of government criticism for his allegations of “dirty tricks” by the National Party, he may find one unlikely ally – John Key, six years ago. More>>

Jim Miles: Israeli War Crimes In Gaza

Israel reveals its true colours and true aspirations every time it attacks Gaza (or any other self-perceived enemy) as being the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, even to the degree - as the references above indicate - to the act of genocide. More>>

David Swanson: Top 9 Reasons To Stop Bombing Iraq

1. It's not a rescue mission. The U.S. personnel could be evacuated without the 500-pound bombs. The persecuted minorities could be supplied, moved, or their enemy dissuaded, or all three, without the 500-pound bombs or the hundreds of 'advisors' (trained ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Comedian’s Death: Robin Williams And The Virtues Of Suicide

The Grim Reaper never runs out of converts. Put another way, death never gets his full due. Comedians do not figure well in this – they are particularly attractive targets in the business of death. More>>

Suzan Mazur: "Oomph" & Origin Of Life At Hydrothermal Vents

The notion that life originated in hydrothermal vents was for a long time a sleepy area of scientific inquiry because the vents first found, known as 'black smokers,' were way too hot and acidic. But in 1989, Michael Russell, a British geochemist who ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The US Rescue Mission In Iraq

It isn’t often that unilateral US bombing raids within a foreign country can be supported, but the current US bombing campaign in northern Iraq is one such case. The fighters of the Islamic State (IS) appear to be intent on committing genocide against the Yezidis, Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and every other non-Sunni community in the region… More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news