Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Preservation group protests plans to demolish historic NZ church property

Section 38 demolition of heritage listed Bishopscourt in Christchurch, NZ, ignores calles for unnecessary heritage demoltions and transparency in rebuilding the earthquake damaged city.

Historic Places Canterbury is shocked and disappointed to hear that CERA has granted a section 38 demolition order allowing the demolition of Anglican Care’s flagship heritage mansion Bishopscourt at 100 Park Terrace.

Bishopscourt is not a “dangerous building” nor is it holding up the “timely and expeditious” recovery of the city. This s.38 means that CERA takes over the demolition process so that the Anglican Care Trust Board / Anglican Living does not have to go through the normal RMA procedure which would involve public notification with full transparency in which the public (citizens, heritage groups and heritage professionals) could have had their say.

Christchurch has lost far too much of its heritage identity since late 2010 (more than 235 listed heritage buildings have been demolished) with citizens having no say in this mass clearance of our city’s identity. Recent calls by Mayor Dalziel for a halt to the shocking waste of resources with the demolition of reparable buildings, and by the Editor of The Press for transparency from CERA (“Cera must be transparent on heritage”, stuff / The Press 28 January 2015) are made a mockery of by this decision.

Bishopscourt has the highest heritage rating possible in New Zealand: Heritage New Zealand (formerly NZHPT) Category One and Christchurch City Council Group One. Bishopscourt has been recognised as a building of local, national and international significance. It is a masterpiece of 1920’s Colonial Georgian style domestic architecture by Cecil Wood, one of Christchurch’s most important architects. A grand scale three storied residence of more than 20 rooms, it opened in 1927, replacing the former bishop’s residence designed by Mountfort in 1858 which had burnt down in 1924. It is considered to be Wood’s most important work of domestic architecture and is thought by many to be one of New Zealand’s finest Colonial Georgian style domestic designs.

From the exterior little damage is evident, with an intact hipped slate roof. HPC does not know how extensive interior damage may be. HPC is certain, however, that if they had not been constrained by CERA’s secretive section 38 processes, CCC and HNZ heritage professionals would have publicly advocated for the retention of this landmark Christchurch building. Members of the architectural profession and the wider public – including members of the Anglican Church – will be aghast to hear of its impending demolition.

The design of Bishopspark retirement village by Don Donnithorne in the 1980s, with hipped roofs and dormer windows, very much reflects the classical Georgian style of Cecil Wood’s Bishopscourt building. HPC understands that up until the earthquakes Bishopscourt was the focal point of Bishopspark Retirement Living village, fully occupied and viable: its retention would enable an important link with the recent past to be reestablished as well as the continued historical links with the city. HPC asks why CERA is still using section 38 to allow the owners of heritage buildings to bypass the RMA when it has been many years since the last significant aftershock. HPC urges the city’s citizens to express their disapproval of this decision.

HPC urges CERA to reconsider its decision and to consult more widely and openly with the public to assist Anglican Care / Anglican Living to retain Bishopscourt for the benefit of Bishopspark residents, the city and the nation.

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