Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods does not have the power to intervene and stop possible demolition of the Christchurch’s earthquake-damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
A spokesman for Woods said she “does not have the power to intervene as the rules under the Christchurch District Plan govern and enable the demolition of the Catholic basilica.”
“The replacement district plan process undertaken by the Christchurch City Council was robust, including the appointment of an independent hearings panel,” he said.
“The panel considered a significant amount of evidence in relation to the demolition of the Catholic basilica before making the decisions which were notified to the council and implemented in the operative Christchurch district plan.”
The diocese of Christchurch was granted a section 38 notice in August 2015 for the demolition of the earthquake-damaged basilica.
A section 38 notice allows a building owner to demolish without resource consent.
The notices were granted after the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes so that damaged and dangerous buildings could be cleared more quickly.
Council head of resource consents, John Higgins, said consent would not be required by the Catholic church for demolition if the section 38 notice was valid.
A spokesman for Land Information New Zealand confirmed the section 38 notice for the cathedral was still valid, but was subject to some conditions like providing a detailed demolition plan.
Paul Martin, the Catholic bishop of Christchurch recently announced three possibilities for the earthquake-damaged basilica.
One of the options is to demolish the existing building and build a Cathedral on a new site.
A decision on the future of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch has been delayed to March or April next year.
What I find most interesting about this announcement – that the N.Z. Government has no power to prevent the demolition of Christchurch’s R.C. Sacred Heart Basilica, in the wake of the 2011 earthquake in the city – is the revelation of the fact that, in the light of this statement (above) :
“The notices (section 38) were granted after the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes so that damaged and dangerous buildings could be cleared more quickly”
It would seem, however, that the other Cathedral (Christ Church Anglican) in Christchurch – though damaged to the extent that the diocese was prepared for its demolition – was NOT GRANTED the necessary permission (section 38) to proceed with its interim decision made by the Anglican Diocesan Synod in the first instance.
One cannot help but wonder why the process (section 38) was not applied in the case of the central city Anglican Cathedral, whose demolition was successfully appealed against by a vociferous small group of heritage advocates, who managed to get their own way, leaving our diocese no other option but to re-build onto the original cathedral building – a process which, after seven years, has still not been able to be implemented.
One can only applaud the Action of the Catholic Bishop of Christchurch (+Paul Martin) for his proactive consideration of the best option for the damaged Sacred Heart Basilica – even if it means its demolition in favour of a new building on another city site. He will no doubt be thankful that this option is still available, in the interests of financial viability, without the interference of those who would prefer to maintain a heritage building at any cost.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand