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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gallery may be retained as CD crisis centre

Gallery may be retained as CD crisis centre

Last updated 05:00 08/04/2011
A proposed $3.9 million Civil Defence emergency centre could be shelved after the Christchurch Art Gallery performed so well as a base following the February earthquake.

The gallery was the nerve centre for the emergency response and housed more than 500 staff.

Emergency services, the army and Civil Defence used the building as an emergency operations centre (EOC) to co-ordinate rescue efforts and demolitions and hold twice-daily press conferences.

The Christchurch City Council set aside $3.9m in its long-term budget for an emergency centre in Milton St, Spreydon, in partnership with St John.

EOC manager Murray Sinclair said the plan could be reviewed.

"We can see that the gallery has worked remarkably well," he said. "We could spend that money on some enhancements in here.

"We could make a saving, given the council will have a substantial infrastructure bill to pick up after the quake."

Council chief executive Tony Marryatt said the Milton St plan was still in the budget but could be reviewed, along with all other capital projects.

"We have a resolution to work with St John, but we haven't finalised that," he said.

"It is not ideal to continue taking the Art Gallery out of operation."

Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said the gallery was a great location for the EOC.

Its quake-resistant design and backup generator had also proved useful, he said.

"It is close to the city centre and has excellent facilities and is very large. You can keep everyone in a single space."

Gallery director Jenny Harper said hosting the EOC was part of the gallery's broader role.

"We are at the centre and the heart of the city. We are part of the city and when the city goes down, you are caught up in it.

"We don't want to be isolationist. We are part of the community. This is a marvellous space."

The gallery is set to reopen in early July.

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