by Eugenie Sage
The draconian and excessive powers in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act (CER) need to be reviewed. The emergency is over and Christchurch citizens need much more of a say in critical decisions about the city’s future. The unprecedented powers in the legislation means the Christchurch City Council and the public in Canterbury are legally impotent in being unable to legally challenge the Cathedral Chapter’s proposed demolition of the ChristChurch Cathedral.
Powerlessness is not a basis for recovery.
It is undemocratic that the Cathedral chapter can ignore the City Council’s resolution calling for a halt to demolition of our Cathedral . It is also undemocratic that usual avenues existing under the Resource Management Act (RMA) are unavailable in Christchurch because of these powers.
The public should be able to use the RMA to challenge the Bishop and the Cathedral chapter’s unreasonable decision to demolish the Cathedral without exploring other options – except, the CER Act means they can’t. The Act means that any resource consent decisions do not have be publicly notified. It is deeply disturbing that there has been and is no opportunity for public involvement in such a significant decision.
In any other city (and prior to the CER Act in Christchurch), the Bishop and Church would need to get a resource consent under the RMA to demolish a listed heritage building. This empowers the public to have a say through the consent process. For example, the RMA and the involvement of the public have previously saved the Canterbury Museum from ugly alterations and stopped an intrusive new music conservatory building being imposed on the heritage character of the Arts Centre.
The operation and effectiveness of the CER Act is supposed to be reviewed every 12 months. The Act came into effect in April 2011, so a review is overdue. I have written to the Minister asking when he plans to undertake this review, or if he has reviewed the Act, when this information will become public as is required. I’m looking forward to his response.
With the CER Act shutting out the public, one place our voice can be heard is on the street. The Restore ChristChurch Cathedral group and others are organising a Rally for the Cathedral – Stop the Demolition in Cranmer Square on Saturday 28 May at 2.30 pm. I plan to be there.