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Gordon Campbell on Criminalising Protest, and Cathedrals

Gordon Campbell on Criminalising Protest, and Christchurch Cathedral Options

The Tauranga MP Simon Bridges – he’s also the Labour Minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources - is carving out quite a niche for himself, on the gratuitously petty side of Tory politics. First, we had his brushing aside of official advice to raise the minimum wage more substantially, and now we have his attempt to criminalise freedom of expression by restricting protests at sea.

Thanks to Bridges’ belated amendement to the Crown Minerals Bill, those protesters who get within 500 metres of seismic measuring vessels or mining operations can be jailed and fined significantly, and so can the organisation to which they belong, up to the level of $100,000. These draconian measures have been brought in to fix a non-existent problem – can Bridges point to an instance of oil or mining exploration at sea that was scrapped primarily because of protest action ?

The Brazilian oil giant Petrobras for instance, pulled out of its East Cape exploration because of its own internal financing problems, not because of protest action. Which example of protest action can Bridges point to in order to justify this outlandish law – which is being pushed through without select committee scrutiny ?

The prominent New Zealanders – including Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dame Anne Salmond – who have banded together to oppose this legislation should be applauded. As Peter Williams QC pointed out on RNZ this morning the measures being contemplated are entirely to do with restricting the rights and the behaviour of protesters, with no balancing measures with respect to the obligations of oil and mining companies – who, as Williams says, could criminalise the protesters merely by sailing or flying close to them, as was done by the French during the anti-nuclear protests at Mururoa.

This is the kind of thing the Key government has done before. Over the Hobbit dispute as well, the current government was willing to infringe the rights of New Zealanders, in order to send an air kiss to foreign multinationals. Unfortunately, there seems to be no-one within the government ranks willing to challenge Bridges over this selling out of the democratic freedoms of expression. Isn’t the centre-right supposed to be the chmapion of such freedoms – or is it only interested in freedom that comes with a corporate cost/benefit analysis attached? Once the Act Party emerges from mourning over the death of Baroness Thatcher, perhaps it could turn its mind to honouring its supposed belief in individual liberties.

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Cathedral Options

One of the really odd aspects of the unveiling of the three Cathedral replacement options in Christchurch last week was that there seemed to be only one “contemporary” design up for consideration. Ever since the earthquakes took their toll, we have been told how iconic the Cathedral is, and how symbolic it is of the city’s recovery. Therefore, shouldn’t there be at least some attempt – i.e. an architectural competition – to find the best contemporary design, rather than merely treating a single off-the-shelf design as the only contemporary design that deemed to be relevant ?

So far, a large chunk of the Christchurch public have shown – in their responses to a number of unscientific polls – that they’re quite willing to consider a contemporary design. Predictably, the architectetctural critics here and overseas have been divided in their response to the contemporary design on offer, from Warren and Mahoney. Obviously, it is up to Christchurch people to decide whether they want an architectural competition to elicit further options. To that end, it may be helpful to see what other cities have considered, when building contemporary Cathedrals.

1. First, here’s the Warren and Mahoney design.

2. Those critics who have labelled the Warren and Mahoney design as "derivative" may well have had in mind the ( much-praised in architectural circles) Catholic Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California. Here are some images of that building, outside and inside. The similarity is fairly obvious:

3. For a daring and quite different example – and one best considered in relation to the new town hall built beside it – here is the Cathedral/Town Hall complex in Evry, France. Note the trees on the roof and the use of the space in front of the town/hall cathedral:

4. For a stunningly different design (exteriors and cross section here) we have the – as yet unbuilt – Axis Mundi suggested design for a new Cathedral in Strasbourg:

5. This cathedral in Houston Texas is an example of a very traditional design in modern guise:

6. And going back a bit to the 1920s, the Grundtvig church in Copenhagen offers a very, very distinctive re-interpretation of Gothic and neo-Gothic tradition:

7. The St Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco is a more modern, but still reasonably conservative option:

8. This interesting seven-towered example – the Santo Volto from Turin, Italy – is also worthy of note. Challenging on the outside, but with quite beautiful interiors, bathed in natural light from the distinctive skylights:

9. And finally, here is an example of how NOT to do it. Here’s the universally loathed new Liverpool Cathedral, a genuine monstrosity:

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