Anger at demolition 'free-for-all'
Last updated 11:13 20/03/2011
A temporary moratorium on demolition work in Christchurch's central business district ends today amid promises from authorities they will try to give building owners access to their damaged properties before the bulldozers move in.
Over the past week several owners have complained that their buildings were demolished without notice, meaning there was no chance to recover critical business records.
One Christchurch contractor dubbed the demolition process a "train wreck and a disaster", citing a lack of co-ordination as a major problem. "There's a Wild West mentality in the CBD at the moment where demolition crews are having a free-for-all," said James Ayers, a Christchurch antique dealer whose business was partially demolished.
"There seems to be very little accountability. Civil Defence don't know what buildings are being pulled down and the media aren't allowed in there, so who knows what is going on?"
Ayers found out about the partial demolition of his High St business only because a person with access to the CBD was concerned enough to contact him.
It appeared from photos that he had been sent (see above) that the single-storey storage shed at the rear of his shop, which had housed about $20,000 worth of stock, had been pulled down despite coming through the quake with only minor damage.
"There's stuff in there that's quite historically important. For example, because I'm into old radios and projectors and things, I've got 8mm film of Ed Hillary climbing around the Southern Alps in the 1950s.
"That could be lost because of these demolition crews," Ayers said.
Although he had registered with the Canterbury Business Recovery Group, he had never been officially informed about the demolition work, or given an opportunity to access the business so he could obtain business records, or even take photographs of the damage for his insurance claim.
He was concerned that without a photographic record of the stock he had lost, the insurance company would not pay out and his business could collapse.
"They're talking about being in recovery mode in the CBD but they're actually ruining any chance of a recovery by destroying properties and businesses that would have been part of that recovery.
"What little chance the CBD ever had of recovering is quickly disappearing because of the uncontrolled and unauthorised nature of the demolition going on."
Over the weekend a temporary moratorium went on all demolition work in the CBD apart from that deemed critical to public safety.
Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said yesterday a new framework was being set up that focused on giving businesses the chance to access their buildings and save what they could.
Of 139 buildings he had so far approved for demolition in the CBD, 17 had been pulled down without notification because the owners could not be contacted.
Hamilton also announced yesterday that he hoped to start giving businesses in the so-called red zone of the CBD access to their premises from Thursday. The access would be given on a building-by-building basis and would be strictly controlled.
Earlier in the week Labour MPs Clayton Cosgrove and Brendon Burns said they were angry that VIPs were "swanning in and out" of the restricted parts of Christchurch's CBD while business owners were refused entry.