In the news: Heritage goes mayoral~!

First, there was Jim Anderton:

(Media Release)
Make the Gothic buildings of Christchurch a World Heritage Site
05 June 2010 Jim Anderton, Mayoral candidate for the City of Christchurch

Jim Anderton announced today that if he becomes the mayor of Christchurch he will lead moves to achieve World Heritage Status for the city’s unique Gothic Revival buildings. No city in the world has a more complete collection of Gothic Revival buildings, of such high quality and so well preserved.

“These Victorian buildings, date back to the 1850s and, as a group, are of enormous international significance. They represent the outcome of the furthest migration of any group of people in human history,” Jim Anderton said.

“Canterbury was seen as a haven in which the best values of British society could be preserved at a time when the very future of European civilization was perceived to be at risk. The early settlers here brought their values with them, and they expressed it in the architecture of Christchurch. Part of that was an appreciation of open public spaces. They believed that the squares and parks around these buildings were the ‘lungs of a city’. It’s no accident that around the same time, an application for a park in New York was accepted and New York’s Central Park became the first public park in the United States. Christchurch’s ancestors valued quality architecture, from which this generation of New Zealanders could learn. These buildings and precincts represent a remarkable determination to create a better world on the other side of the globe,” Jim Anderton said.

“They are more than bricks and mortar. They are at the heart of our city, and remind us every day that wanting to leave the place where you live in a better state than you found it, is a worthwhile goal.”

The Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust has campaigned for World Heritage Status before but without City Council support. Local authority support is essential in order to advance a claim for World Heritage Status, first at national level and then at a future World Heritage Convention

The proposed sites consist of the most significant 19th-century public buildings associated with the founding of the city. These include Christchurch Cathedral, the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, the Canterbury Museum, and the former Canterbury University site, now the Arts Centre. As the proposal is developed and consultation with all parties takes place, other important sites could be added. The Canterbury Provincial Council buildings are the only complete surviving examples of government buildings from the provincial period of colonial society in New Zealand. The 1865 Council Chamber is internationally recognized as an outstanding example of High Victorian Gothic architecture.

“World Heritage listing for our outstanding Gothic Revival precinct would give Christchurch international visibility and prestige, and attract more people to the city. It would also give local people an increased sense of pride in our city. That’s why, if I become mayor, I will help lead a proposal to push for World Heritage Status for these historic sites which teach us so much about our past and the direction we should take for the future,” says Jim Anderton.

Contact: Jim Anderton on 021 777 680


Then Banksie, tonight by Tweet:

@mayorjohnbanks Just posted my latest Banksie Bulletin – this one’s about protecting heritage and character across Greater Auckland


But wait… back when (17 May)
At the launch of the University of Otago Campus Master Plan (the vision…), who should put a question at the end of the official presentation but our very own mayor, Peter Chin. He asked about ‘the possibility of the university using the heritage buildings around the Exchange’. Now there’s a heritage campaign for office.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

PS. What’s happening in Wellington???


Filed under Architecture, Construction, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Inspiration, Politics, Project management, Town planning, Urban design, What stadium

17 responses to “In the news: Heritage goes mayoral~!

  1. Elizabeth

    ### D Scene 16.06.10
    Hats in the ring (page 1) #bookmark
    Incumbent Peter Chin and sitting councillor Dave Cull both announced today they will stand for Mayor in October’s local body elections.
    See stories, page 3: ‘Chin to stand for re-election’, ‘Cull wants a city revolution’ #bookmark

    Register to read D Scene online at


    Mayoral candidate Councillor Dave Cull is the chair of the Dunedin City Council’s Heritage Buildings Economic Re-use steering committee. Cr Cull is also the council’s appointee to the Otago Branch Committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Wed, 16 Jun 2010
      Chin and Cull in bid for mayoralty
      By David Loughrey
      Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin and city councillor Dave Cull have squared off for the mayoralty, both yesterday announcing their intentions to stand for the city’s top job. Mr Chin said he was standing on his record, including his role in the decision to proceed with the Forsyth Barr Stadium. Cr Cull made it clear he wanted his Greater Dunedin political grouping of three councillors to expand to the point it held the balance of power on the council, either alone or with the help of like-minded independents.
      Read more

  2. Phil

    Loved reading Peter’s latest election statement. It appears now that the focus has suddenly shifted to the belief that the “process” behind the stadium decision was correct. No longer the decision itself. Any port in a storm, I guess.

  3. Phil

    Dave, you’re probably the lesser of the two evils. But, don’t think I’ve forgotten for one moment that it was you who gave your “professional” endorsement of the construction contract to your fellow councillors. Got a wee way to go to redeem yourself yet with a few voters.

  4. janet

    The voters who have businesses or those employed in the Harbourside area coveted by Jim Harland for his ‘vision’ will be happy with Dave and Kate. They tried to put a motion at a Planning and Environment Committee meeting re Harbourside; but Guest who was chairing the meeting wouldn’t accept it so the Harbourside issue was raised at a full Council meeting on March 29 and Stage 2 was abandoned. Industry saved, jobs saved.

    • Elizabeth

      The harbourside consultation process between local businesses and the Dunedin City Council isn’t yet resolved and, as noted, Colin Weatherall, with special delegation from Council, hopes to report back to the Environment Court sooner than later on progress reached between the parties. Still a ways to go in the formal appeal process, but sounds to be moving the right way.

  5. ntomlinson

    Heritage status can do more harm than good.

    The city should have a clear plan on how to manage the increased profile they hope to create for these buildings.

    See this National Times article “Trampling our treasures – heritage listing’s Catch 22”

    • Elizabeth

      ntomlinson, I presume you’re referring specifically to UNESCO World Heritage Site status, not District Plan listings and protections!? Your blog tells us you’re writing from overseas. Are you familiar with New Zealand tourism statistics for domestic and international travellers?

      I note that Jim Anderton is proposing WHS status in a working city, Christchurch, which already caters to heritage tourism on a daily basis as well as (of course) ordinary every-day life in a bustling environment.

      Christchurch has had some major losses for heritage, it needs to gather energy to safeguard and draw awareness to what’s left. WHS listing is just one mechanism. Yes, if a nomination for WHS listing was successful it would involve the council and the interested community in planning for potentially increased visitation, through resource management processes. And hey, Jim is electioneering.

      The tests for achieving World Heritage Site status are stiff, but I see no reason whatsover for city heritage proponents to not mount a nomination – although, it must be said, strongly, Dunedin has a more intact assembly of neo-Gothic architecture than Christchurch. But this is what the weight of a nomination has to bare scrutiny to via the submission process.

      The recent challenge, the proposed addition of a music conservatorium to the magnificent historic Arts Centre in Christchurch, has been successfully defended by Save Our Arts Centre (Inc). This gives me every faith that Christchurch will see further community unity in defending challenges to significant items of historic architecture, from proposals for unsympathetic and inappropriate development. SOAC’s campaign has been nothing short of brilliant. SOAC website:

      From the National Times article: “Done well, heritage listing can be good for the health of the site, local communities, economies, and engender greater world awareness of the value of our assets.”

      And yes UNESCO admits to the down sides of site management and infrastructural challenges – that’s completely to be expected for the nth wonders of the world.

      Disclaimer: Elizabeth Kerr is a former chair of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Otago Branch (2000-08); a financial member of Save Our Arts Centre; and an active heritage advocate in Dunedin City.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Mon, 5 Jul 2010
        New plan to solve demolition controversy
        By David Loughrey
        The developer of a group of Princes St, Dunedin, buildings controversially targeted for demolition has come back with a new design closely replicating the existing facades. But while the design has been described as an improvement, the Dunedin City Council’s consultant architect has argued at least one of the facades should be saved from demolition, while heritage advocates argue there is no need to demolish any of the facades.
        Read more

  6. Peter

    I agree the new design is a great improvement, but what is actually the problem with keeping the facades, if nothing else? Have any of the facades been altered over the years-even slightly- and if so can they be restored? It would be nice to see older, recessed shop style windows and bull nose verandahs restored, as well, because the underneath part is nothing special.
    I wonder about the viability of new apartments there. There are presently apartments in the old Excelsior Building on the corner of Princes and Dowling Sts that don’t seem to be attracting buyers (this is just up the road). Maybe it’s just the price, but this could suggest the demand for high rent upmarket apartments in Dunedin has its limits.

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Peter – Some of us think he’s out for the resource consent only and may sell the ‘site’ on if he wins the consent.

      As you correctly ask, what is the market for apartment accommodation in the inner city… Further, what is the market for further ground floor retail space near The Exchange, as opposed to George St…
      How many overseas students can we use to tenant these new developments…
      How much can you build for RWC 2011…

      Right from the start for this one, I’ve totally been for saving the whole buildngs, NOT just the facades. The buildings will cost less to strengthen and retain than to fork out on new build. Plus+++++ they’re goldrush era commercial buildings – therefore rare, and the cluster hosts 386 Princes St, a rare example still standing by historical architect William Mason, founder of the firm Mason and Wales that we know today.

      Property investors with strong focus on heritage and adaptive reuse are active in this area of town. The buildings are collectable and flexible to take new use. The projects undertaken recently look a million dollars. The tenants love the ‘new spaces’ within them, which carry character and prestige, reflecting well on the tenants and their clients. The existing buildings, 327-392 Princes St, would do up beautifully and they’re conveniently located.

      Peter Entwisle did us a wonderful favour with his column Art Beat recently, the accompanying historical photograph shows the original form of the ‘Prista’ buildings – stunning! He also showed the two facade options put up by “Mr Prista” and his architects. Now we have a third design option by a non architect building designer. What are we learning about the client/developer?? He simply wants to demolish at any cost. He isn’t flexible or adaptable, unlike his existing buildings.


      Let’s think about this. People love George St heritage precinct, the street is narrower and on the whole the buildings are overtly simple in style, with not a lot of decoration and very few original shopfronts at ground level. We don’t seem to mind that some of the buildings have been modified over time, many of the parapet details and signs have gone, we know they’re old and yes, we/they accommodate subtle change.

      Now think about Princes St. What changes? Yes, less pedestrians, wider street, faster moving cars until they hit the lights at Jetty St intersection, good solid buildings both sides of the street except for the hole where the former Century Theatre was needlessly vandalised to the ground by its then owners. The Exchange area buildings with a lot of architectural punch regardless of their era are all in visual sightline with these 1860s ‘Prista’ buildings. That’s powerful. That’s the history of Dunedin commerce, right there in one view. Take away the early building context, you take away the story of The Exchange area and how the newer buildings came to be; and of course you take away the vestige of our early port history and landing place. Damn. And damn again. Although, this is the third time we’ve been damned by “Mr Prista”.

  7. Peter

    Thanks, Elizabeth. I have a concern about what could happen – again – if the developers just maintain the facades. Our family moved here not that long before the Century Theatre was demolished. It certainly needed some upkeep work, but the building was still attractive. Let’s say it looked better than a parking lot! I remember the facade was initially ‘saved’ by Mehrtens Tyres, but was then torn down because it was ‘structurally unsound’. Not really sure if this was the case, but I remember the facade was propped up, which you’d expect, before it was filled in/supported from behind. I’m concerned the same scenario could again happen. Destruction by stealth? Well, that’s my penny’s worth.

    • Elizabeth

      The propped facade unfortunately wasn’t propped properly and was deliberately not propped properly. Enough of the alliteration to describe a bad situation, huh.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Thu, 8 Jul 2010
        Improved fire safety a big part of upgrade
        By Chris Morris
        Patrons perched high up in “the gods” of the Dunedin Town Hall could have just 290 seconds to escape if the building began to fill with smoke and flames. That is how long it would take from the moment a significant fire started for thick and toxic smoke to rise to the ceiling, billow back down and overwhelm those seated in the building’s highest seats. It is a threat that has been exercising the minds of Dunedin City Council staff, their consultants and New Zealand Fire Service authorities while planning the $45.8 million upgrade of the Town Hall, Municipal Chambers and Glenroy Auditorium-Dunedin Centre.
        Read more

  8. Phil

    I have read this article a few times. And I’ve come to the conclusion that’s it’s news for the sake of news. It’s a question of perspective. 290 seconds. Sounds rather scarey when you say it. 2900 tenths of a second. Sounds even scarier.

    The reality is that it’s 10 seconds shy of 5 minutes. Which is suddenly not so scarey. 5 minutes, not to leave the building, but just to vacate the top half dozen rows, down to a lower area of the theatre. 5 minutes is a long time when you’re on the move. Some people can run nearly a mile and a half in 5 minutes. I can go to the toilet and make a cup of tea during a 5 minute ad break. Stadium contract documents can be signed in 5 minutes.

    Putting it into relative terms, the entire Civic Centre building is evacuated in under 5 minutes, using the central stairwell. That’s people from all 7 floors ending up out in the street, not just the people from level 7 moving down to level 6.

    The Town Hall building certainly needs a fire protection upgrade, no dispute there. The new fire detection system will ensure that the existing silent alarm is raised well before any “significant fire” develops. The reported panic situation was not necessary, and seemed like more of a photo/PR opportunity for Building Control. A bit of scaremongering on a quiet news day, methinks.

  9. Anonymous

    I was looking at the stairways at the rear of the South stand of the stadium the other day. Looks like we learned nothing from the Ibrox disaster way back.

    You could not evacuate the Town Hall fully-seated in 5 minutes.

    It is easy to test. In fact, it probably should be. Get volunteers to fill the place, then set the process going. I am 99% certain that it would not be possible to get everyone out inside 5 minutes.

  10. Phil

    The article only stated that 5 minutes (290,000 milliseconds) is the maximum safe time to move the people out of the Gods section of the theatre down to a lower part of the theatre, to escape the toxic smoke build up at ceiling level. Not to empty out the entire building. Once on a lower level, the time factor is not so critical, as the smoke the report was concerned about will take longer to settle down there. And, during the same 5 minute period, people on the ground floor will have moved out, providing space for those above.

    You would be surprised how many people you can move in 5 minutes, and how far you can move them. As I said earlier, the Civic Centre is completely emptied in under 5 minutes. And that has similar egress facilities to the Town Hall, but with greater height issues. I saw them empty 80,000 people out of an Italian football stadium in 10 minutes. Different design parameters in that instance, which hopefully the designers for our stadium have incorporated.

    I recall a question about maximum occupancy in the Town Hall being raised about 3 years ago. At the time, neither the building owner, nor the Fire Service, had assessed the building for maximum occupancy restrictions. And so there hadn’t been any occupied fire drills to determine the actual evacuation time. The upgrade will tie quite a few loose ends together.

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