Archives for posts with tag: Those Left Standing

The Press reports that the demolition of Centennial Pool will begin next week, so that the construction can begin on the playground that was included in the Blueprint. I think this is a very, very bad decision. I don’t have a problem with the construction of a playground – it is probably one of the only things in the blueprint that has actually been held open for true, genuine consultation with the public. I just don’t think they need to take out the pool to build it.

Centennial Pool (from the Press)

The demolition of Centennial, as well as the previous demolition of QEII, means that there are now no public pools to the east of Colombo St. With the plan for the “Metro Sports Facility”, it looks like the money for what was QEII will be put towards a new complex in the western corner of the central city. This will mean that the west of the city has indoor pools at Northlands, Jellie Park, Pioneer Stadium and in the CBD, with additional outdoor pools at Halswell and Templeton. The outdoor pools remaining in the South-East – Waltham Lido and Lyttelton – are out of action, requiring quake repairs (they are only open for a couple of months a year anyway, due to Christchurch’s unforgettable summer weather). These pools aren’t just for recreation; they play a key role in teaching our children how to swim and keep safe in the water. It is irresponsible to pull down these facilities without any plan for how, where or when they will be replaced.

But aside from the wider issue of aquatic facilities, who decided that we needed to knock down a pool (a thing that kids like) to build a playground (a thing that kids like)? Surely we could have both. If someone at the CCDU had the brains, or the vision, or both, they could have integrated the pool into the wider playground campus. As Gerry seems obsessed with putting things in little precinct-shaped boxes, let’s call it “the Fun Precinct”. Families could go down to visit the pool for a swimming lesson, then reward the kids with a trip to the giant hippo slide next-door. It would increase the numbers of people using the space during the weekdays, when there shouldn’t be a whole lot of kids around.

It seems to me an example of CERA’s “blank canvas” mentality: wipe the slate clean and start again. Except here, as with most of the central city, the canvas isn’t totally blank, and doesn’t need to be. They could – and should – be thinking smarter, thinking bigger, and thinking about ways to integrate those buildings that are still left standing into their plans, rather than needlessly bulldozing them.


In happier news, it sounds like the CCDU may have seen sense, and might be amenable to fixing the IRD building on Cashel St:

The Press understands that the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) is considering saving the eight-storey former IRD building and its neighbouring Pavilion building. Both Cashel St buildings were bought by the Crown as part of the eastern frame but the CCDU has never confirmed their fate. A CCDU spokesman last week said no final decisions had been made but The Press understands that once the Crown chooses a partner for residential development in the frame, the possibility of refurbishing the buildings would be looked at.

This sounds encouragingly like the Those Left Standing campaign, which I launched at the start of March.

Hopefully that means that Gerry and Co are reading this blog – and if that’s the case, I hope they read my suggestions about Lancaster Park and the Government Life building. Unfortunately, it’s too late for The Majestic. But I don’t really care whose idea it was, as long as the CCDU starts doing more to get the city up and running again.

I can’t remember exactly when I first went to Lancaster Park. I was probably 6 or 7. I remember it being a sunny afternoon, and being fascinated by the TVs that were suspended from the roof of the Canterbury Draught stand (as it was then known.) What an amazing place! It had sport and TVs hanging from the roof!

On another occasion, I remember the closing stages of a one day international, trying to work out how many sixes off no-balls New Zealand would need to win the game. My memories aren’t all cricket related; dad took me on the back of the Honda motorbike to see the Warriors in 1997. We stood in the south-east of the old embankment, not far from the giant inflatable Warrior – who had a patch over the badge on his jersey, as this was the middle of the ARL-Super League war. Dad also rode that bike to see U2 play their Zooropa tour in 1993.

When we were in high school, freed from the parental shackles but with nothing to do, we spent a lot of time at the ground. We went to screeds of Crusaders games, back when they were routinely awful. We’d make the most of the “Take a Kid To Footy” deal, by designating the tallest of our mates as “dad”, who paid $10 to get in, and then it was $5 for each additional “child”. Each of the “kids” would also get a pack of chips and a coke, so it was pretty cheap entertainment for a Friday night. In 1997 we were part of the sell-out crowd that watched as Canterbury beat Jonah Lomu’s Counties to take the NPC title for the first time since the early 80’s.

In the mid-late 90’s, there was a Chris Harris / Chris Cairns testimonial match. They were both still active players, but I think it was held as they had both played 10 seasons for Canterbury. I can’t confirm this at the moment, as “Chris Cairns Testimonial” has become difficult to google for some reason. Anyway, it wasn’t a particularly well attended match. Me and my yobbo mates were in the main stand, just square of mid-on. Rod Latham had come out to bat, and had put on a bit of weight. We shouted out the classic “who ate all the pies” at him. He pulled the next ball in our direction for four, turned and gave us all the fingers.

I was in Dunedin for the first half of the 00’s, so missed one of the most amazing achievements at what was then Jade Stadium. I remember being at a mate’s flat for the England-New Zealand test, watching nervously as Nathan Astle approached 100. Once he got the tonne, we went down to the park to kick a ball around. When we came back an hour later, we saw the score and thought something was wrong. 222? It didn’t make much sense.

Through the late half of the 00’s, the stadium seemed to be constantly undergoing some sort of refurbishment. First the embankment went, replaced by the Paul Kelly Stand. I took an American mate to a Crusaders game. It was against the Bulls. There weren’t many people, so we wandered around an found a seat on the top tier of the PK Stand. It turned out we were next to the Bulls fans, who shouted abuse in Afrikaans, to their players, to each other, and to us. They waved pre-Apartheid South African flags and sung the old national anthem. We moved at half time. The Crusaders won.

The Deans stand opened at the start of 2010. Despite it only being open for just over a year pre-quake, I still managed to catch a few good games. Sitting in the stands as Brendon McCullum scooped his way to the second ever T20 hundred. Kevin Locke scoring a hat-trick to beat the Roosters, including the match winner on the buzzer which saw him leave the ground in an ambulance. Local boy Ben Sigmund heading home a Marco Rojas corner for a 94th minute winner.

Of course, Lancaster Park wasn’t just the home of sporting memories. It also holds political ones. It was the venue for the first test of the Springbok tour in 1981, on August the 15th.

Our Prime Minister was a student at the University of Canterbury in 1981, but doesn’t seem to remember having a view on the tour. Brownlee would have been in Christchurch at the time too. One wonders whether their desire wipe the slate clean and build a new stadium is part of a wider plan of scrubbing out the inconvenient parts of Christchurch’s history. But the history of sport is about the actions on the field, and only incidentally about the built structures. It’s not about the Deans Stand, the Paul Kelly Stand, the Tui Stand or the Hadlee Stand: it’s about Lancaster Park. When clubs move grounds, they struggle to take the years of history with them – like Arsenal leaving Highbury for the Emirates, or Carisbrook being super-ceded by ForsythBarr. Better facilities, sure. But they’ve discarded multiple sporting life-times worth of built-up legend. To give up on all of that history, when something could easily, and probably more economically, salvaged from the site seems a particularly short-sighted move.


The thing is, this place is still standing. It’s not fallen down, it’s not in anyone’s way. The turf is stuffed. The stands have sunk. We don’t really know what the deal is with the insurance. I’m not convinced that the options for the ground have been exhausted yet. Late last year, Brownlee declared that he wanted Christchurch to be the sporting capital of New Zealand; if he’s true to that, then he should be doing everything he can to preserve the site of our city’s proud sporting heritage.






On Thursday, there was a very passionate, vocal protest to save the Majestic Theatre. Probably thanks to the presence of the Wizard, and two of his acolytes, it got good media attention – CTV news covers it here, and the Press has a video at the top of it’s piece as well. I gave a short speech in front of the Majestic, in which I covered off the main tenets of Those Left Standing: Repair, Reuse and Rethink.

Repair. These buildings, still standing, clearly aren’t an immediate risk of falling down and causing harm to people. They can be repaired, if there is the will and the money to do so. Reuse. The rebuild thus far has been a huge waste – both of materials, and buildings. We need to ask ourselves where that mass of concrete, glass and steel will end up if we pull it down. We can reuse – by repairing buildings and putting them back into circulation, we can reclaim the built environment whilst protecting the natural one.

Rethink. The CCDU want to pull down the Majestic Theatre to widen a road by 9m. It’s 2014, and we’re knocking down buildings to accommodate more cars. This is madness, and shows that parts of the Blueprint plan need to be completely re-thought. Instead of reassessing how the plan has worked in the almost 2 years since it was released, Brownlee and Isaacs are doubling down on the Blueprint, betting that it’s failures can be glossed over by putting the house on red. It’s a high-risk play, with a potentially disastrous legacy if it all goes wrong. This is planning by bluster and stubbornness, and now is the time to admit that we need a rethink, before everything is bulldozed by an outdated plan.

From the Save the Majestic facebook page:

ATTENTION ALL MAJESTIC SUPPORTERS: We are planning a demonstration for THIS THURSDAY AT 1PM, in response to the news of CCDU’s decision to demolish the Majestic. We will be stationing ourselves outside the Majestic Theatre, banners and placards in hand, ready to show that Christchurch wants to save the Majestic. Please come and show your support, your presence will make a huge impact, and spread the word as much as you can. The more people we can get along on the day, the more we can show that we will not take this decision lying down, and that the Majestic needs to be saved for the benefit of Christchurch! More details to follow soon.

Dr Ian Lochhead has written about the importance of the Majestic. Almost 50 years ago, on June the 27th, 1964, the Beatles played the last show of their one and only New Zealand tour at the Majestic. While “the Beatles played there” may not be the best excuse to save a building, it’s a million times better than “making the road 9m wider” – which is the reason being given to bowl the building. If you’re in the vicinity, I hope you’ll join me and others at the theatre, this Thursday at 1pm.

One of the government’s main anchor projects, is increasingly looking like a farce. The Press reports that there is now a grand total of one company bidding to build the convention centre:

Five groups, out of 23 initial responses, were asked to submit proposals for the $284 million precinct – one of the Government’s key blueprint anchor projects – to the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) … The Press understands (Australia-based infrastructure business Plenary Group) Plenary is the only bidder left.

The CCDU have repeatedly stressed the importance of a convention centre. The tourism industry has described it as “pivotal”. The shortlist of five was drawn up in late 2012, and reported on in early 2013. That is well over a year ago – which seems like a pretty long time to be on a “shortlist”. In June of last year, Alan Trotter said he expected an announcement on the convention centre “soon“. The CCDU aimed to have the first sod turned on the site in 2013. After that deadline whizzed by, the viability of project is increasingly being questioned. If they read reports from the US, they might question whether they should be building convention centres at all.

The big problem around the convention centre – and this is one of the main criticisms of the Blueprint plan as a whole – is that it is intricately linked to a number of other projects. The money-spinning part of the convention centre was to be the associated hotels. However, these became a less viable proposition when the council refused to bowl the Town Hall in favour of the “performing arts precinct”. With a smaller arts precinct, and potentially a smaller convention centre, there is likely to be less demand for hotel rooms. The developer of the hotels were going to be offered an advantage, by being permitted to build without the 7-storey height limit. Christchurch’s richest man, Philip Carter, expressed an interest in being said developer. It’s also worth remembering that the mega-convention centre is the reason why the central library is to be demolished and built somewhere else, for almost 10 times the cost of simply repairing it.

Which brings me to my main point: I have a suggestion for Minister Brownlee. It’s a solution that can save money, save a building, save time, and save face. What we should be doing is converting the old Government Life building into a convention centre.

IMG_1890The Government Life building isn’t many people’s favourite building. I kind of have a soft spot for it, and as the new City Council building has shown, mid-century modernist buildings can be successfully re-purposed. Before the quake it was in a state of disuse, home to pigeons and artist studios for Tony De Lautour and Mike Hewson, amongst others. Hewson did this fantastic work on the back-side of the building:

Hewson Government Life

What do we need in a convention centre? The old one on Kilmore St wasn’t much more than a two-storey tilt-slab barn, with adjustable partitions on the ground floor and some small rooms on the first floor. It cost $15 million to build in 1997. I’m no big-city architect, but surely it would be possible to fit out the Government Life building so that it can host a couple of thousand people, house some smaller rooms and maybe the offices for VBase (the company who runs conferences for the Council.) It may not be the most glamourous building, but it does have the best location in town. And on top of that, the guy who owns it – Philip Carter – happens to be one of the people the government wants to build hotels. This would save not one, but two buildings, as it would spare the old Central Library from the wreckers ball. It would save time, and would prevent a building-sized load of waste going to the landfill.



Some of you that still have a subscription to Dead Tree will have seen a story about me in the Press this morning. It’s about a campaign I’m starting that I’m calling “Those Left Standing”. The aim is to lobby for some of the remaining buildings that exist in the CBD – especially those within the frame – to be saved, renovated, and incorporated into the frame, rather than needlessly demolished. Here is the Those Left Standing manifesto:


In the immediate aftermath of the quakes, and then the June aftershocks, a number of buildings needed to be cordoned off because they were hazardous to people nearby. Now, more than 3 years later, and with the cordon fences largely down, it is clear that these buildings don’t pose an immediate danger to human life. That means that any argument to demolish them is likely to be economic, rather than safety.


There are a number of buildings in the frame area that are heritage. The Majestic Church / Theatre is one of them. But there are other buildings here which has little or no interest from a “heritage” point of view – but are still critical to the history of the city. I want to work with the strong heritage advocacy groups, but also want to work to preserve buildings which don’t qualify due to their age, or lack of architectural pedigree.


One of the unspoken atrocities of the earthquake / rebuild has been the horrific amount of waste created by demolitions. Some of it has been poured into the harbor (illegally) at Lyttelton, most of the rest is now in a massive mound at the Burwood landfill. I believe that the true environmental cost of demolition is not being paid by the companies removing the rubble from the CBD – and that if this cost was presented to these organizations, then a much greater effort would have been made to retain a number of buildings. RE:Kindle, and it’s spin-off, the Whole House Re-Use, have raised important questions about our attitude to waste.


I don’t know if you’ve wandered around the CBD lately, but there isn’t a hell of a lot of building going on. Wouldn’t it be quicker for us to try and refurbish an existing building, which might take 3 or 6 months, than the government acquiring it, bowling it, flogging it off to a developer and then waiting for something to happen? This is the case with the Oak’s SmartStay, on the corner of Liverpool and Cashel Sts. This isn’t much of a building – and I say that from experience, having lived directly opposite it, I got to look out at it every morning. However, it is a building less than 10 years old that could be renovated and made safe – and that would bring 100’s of apartment rooms onto the market. This could help ease the housing crisis, by providing rooms for many of the workers who are coming in to help on the rebuild. It would also bring more people back into the centre of town, making it a safer, more vibrant place to live. Instead, the government are acquiring the building, demolishing it, then selling the land off to a developer so they can build … apartments. Madness.


A lot of the discussion about the Blueprint and the buildings in it forgets that no building is permanent. The Oaks SmartStay may not be the nicest building, and may not fit the vision that the government has outlined. But if we did choose to save it, to reuse it, there is nothing to say that this is a permanent decision. It could be a short-to-medium term solution, for 10 years, to house people to work on the city until there are other places for them. By then, Gerry’s beloved market may be functioning better than it is now, and a developer may decide that they can think of something better to do with the site.


What ties this altogether is a vision for the city. Gerry has one vision – he wants to create a clean slate, to pull down all the “dungers” so he can stamp his own vision on the city. He wants to purify the frame, removing businesses he doesn’t like (strip clubs), even though they are perfectly legal. 18 months after the Blueprint came out, the only things happening in this city are outside of Gerry’s area of control. We, as a city and a country, don’t have enough money to build the city of Gerry’s dreams. We need to be more realistic. Why demolish a repairable swimming pool to build a children’s playground, when you could integrate the playground around the pool? Why not try and integrate the existing buildings into the vision of the frame? Not only would it save money – money that we don’t have – but it would say so much about who we are, and what we’ve been through. Instead of wiping all these buildings and all of their history off the map, let’s preserve some of them.

I’ve got some of my architect friends working on designs for what these buildings could look like. I’m keen to have people get involved, so if you have any ideas, drop me a line in the comments or via twitter. In the mean time, here are some brilliant photos of the Bicycle Thief by Doug Richardson, one of the buildings in the frame that I believe could have been saved, and would have been an asset to the area.

UPDATE: here is me talking about the campaign with Lucas on bFM: