Angry Christchurch business owners yesterday marched on the Civil Defence base and demanded a senior Government minister speak to them.
The protesters were led by photographer Kurt Langer, who said the group were afraid their buildings would be demolished before they were allowed back in to salvage anything.
"We want to tell the people in that art gallery what they're doing to our city." Civil Defence headquarters is based at Christchurch Art Gallery. Mr Langer led a group of about 30 there.
When they saw Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee through the windows, they held their placards to the glass and asked him to come out.
Mr Langer has a studio in Cashel Mall that was damaged in the February 22 earthquake. He is furious he may not be allowed back in before it is possibly demolished in coming days.
"I reckon there could be $500,000 in there - artworks, sculptures, negatives and slides."
He told the Herald his "retirement" was in his studio. "And they're taking that away."
Mr Langer believed he could get engineers to "make it safe", and accused authorities of taking away his property rights.
"It's a complete communist state telling us we can't go in. They'll probably demolish all our buildings and everything in it and the demolition companies will get it all, the gold, silver and artefacts ..."
Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton this week said the decision to take apart adjacent buildings was sometimes made on site by the Usar team and not the contractor.
Buildings were demolished only after engineering and heritage reports by Christchurch City Council heritage planners and the Historic Places Trust.
Mr Hamilton said officials would do everything possible to contact building owners and he had to be satisfied that had happened before a building could be taken down. It was the owner's responsibility to inform tenants.