Christchurch earthquake: Prosecution possible for church demolition

By Hayden Donnell

Prosecution could be launched against those who carried out the unauthorised demolition of a heritage church in central Christchurch, Mayor Bob Parker said.

The Sydenham Heritage Church on the corner of Colombo and Brougham streets was bulldozed in the wake of last week's 6.3 magnitude quake.

Mr Parker said the demolition had not been approved by council.

Heritage buildings were an iconic feature of Christchurch and should be saved where possible, he said.

"Our heritage buildings - though many have been substantially damaged - are a concern to the people of Christchurch. It is our desire to save as much as practicable and safe."

The stone church was administered by Sydenham Heritage Trust, which had already fought off two attempts by developers to demolish it more than a decade ago.

It was saved with the help of an interest-free grant from Council in 2001.

The church was listed as a Category 2 historic place with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Its destruction comes amid reports to Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury of salvage and demolition contractors signing contracts for the removal of debris from earthquake damaged buildings.

Mr Parker called on property owners not to remove anything from heritage sites until they had gone through the required council process.

His appeal was echoed this morning by Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton.

He said demolitions should only happen when there is an immediate risk to public safety during the initial response to the earthquake.

"There is no immediate need for the removal of any demolition material."

The only exception to that is for search and rescue teams removing debris in and effort to recover bodies in the city centre, Mr Hamilton said.

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