Apr 10, 2008

Saving Canterbury's Heritage

Facing a threat of demolition is the derelict Ti Kouka House, circa 1865 home of Samuel de la Bere Barker (1848-1901) at 281 Cambridge Terrace near the Madras Street bridge.

Sam Barker, son of Dr Alfred Charles Barker; Surgeon aboard the Charlotte Jane and father of Christchurch photography, was the Librarian of the Supreme Court and a widely renowned Botanist.

The Lyttelton Times for 23 August 1902 stated "On the northern side of the Avon stretching along the bank from Madras Street to Manchester Street there is a garden filled exclusively with New Zealand plants. Its official name is Barkers Avenue." (view a satellite image of the house location).

Barkers Avenue from the Madras Street bridge, circa 1902

A New Zealand Historic Places Trust spokesperson is reported in a Christchurch newspaper as saying that while both the Trust and Christchurch City Council staff work to conserve the city's built heritage, Christchurch lacks the automatic protection for old homes written into the city plans of Auckland and Wellington.

The spokesperson is also quoted as saying "Certainly, Christchurch is under resourced in terms of its ability to protect its heritage. We are losing quite an amount of our old dwellings, especially our timber ones."

Condensed from an article in The Press.

Statistics from the Ministry for the Environment suggest Christchurch has the highest number consents which are not notified or have limited notification of any New Zealand city – just 113 limited and notified consents out of 5,241 applications in the last four years.

This allows substantial developments to proceed with little or any reference to the community. City Council officers say this is allowable under the current town plan and that this is in turn based around the Resource Management Act.

This policy allows the community little chance for input into developments that may end up in the destruction of heritage buildings.

Labour’s Christchurch Central candidate Brendon Burns

Kiwi photographer Jake was born in Warsaw, Poland, a city that was almost 90% leveled to the ground during World War II. He says "We sure miss that heritage and the effect the loss has had on the city is profound. Here we seem to be doing something similar, just over a longer time and bit by bit... Christchurch is actually a disgrace when it comes to tearing down our old heritage and replacing it with junk .."


Rob said...

driving past this on saturday and noticed that the kilmore st side of this house has been torched.

i'm guessing this was the next step in the 'familiar cycle' you mentioned?


Greg said...

As a relatively recent resident of Christchurch, I'm amazed at how little regard is given to the heritage buildings of this city. What organizations can I join to help protect them? What laws or by-laws do we need to change? Thanks.

Canterbury Heritage said...

There would appear to be cumulative evidence to indicate collusive conflict of interest between regional government, local agencies of national government, certain property developers and the city's mainstream media to avoid the heritage protection enjoyed by New Zealand's other cities. Had we need further examples of the foregoing, then the recent fate of the above pictured house and a subsequent event, should suffice:

In spite of being well aware of its historic significance, the local branch of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust willfully avoided granting Ti Kouka House listing status and also attempted to dissuade Canterbury Heritage from publicising its plight. Although adjacent to the central Fire Station, the last of the inner city river-side mansions (above) eventually succumbed to a second arson attempt in March 2009, and the site has now been cleared for redevelopment. Subsequent to this event nearly two hundred concerned citizens attended a public meeting to address the ongoing destruction of our cultural heritage. Neither event was reported in any newspaper.

Short of erecting a guillotne in Cathedral Square and inviting the matrons of Aranui to watch, while getting on with their knitting as summary justice is performed, it would appear that little could be done to remediate a situation where cultural obligations continue to succumb to the sordid pressures of our market place.

Anonymous said...

There may be a turn-around in relation to “Christchurch has the highest number consents which are not notified or have limited notification of any New Zealand city”.

We have a large, turn of last century (some Art Nouveau features) villa that, after many years, we hope to be able to restore soon. We wish to extend the rear of the house and remove lean-tos, and extend the original roofline to the end of the building (to keep the stud, etc). Unfortunately we are (already) within the setback and the recession plane of our neighbour. As is their right, they have objected to the extension of the existing roof/walls.

Having last week applied for resource consent on a limited notified basis, I have this morning been informed that this application must actually go publicly notified. The community can certainly have their say on our proposed extension.

In direct contrast to your commentary, it is the RMA which may ultimately result in the destruction of our building. We’d certainly be better off financially if we were to install three townhouses.