You are looking at another page of my New Zealand travel diary, detailing events of January 2012.
Opposite the Old Sydenham Post Office building of yesterday’s post, also on the corners of Colombo and Brougham Streets there used to stand a beautiful church.
It was called the Sydenham Methodist Church, a beautiful stone building in Gothic style that dated back to 1877 making it one of the oldest churches in the city.
When the local area made a transition from residential to mainly commercial properties and the population fell below what was feasible for the Church’s survival it went though a series of owners until it passed into the care of the Sydenham Heritage Trust in 2001 after locals saved it from demolition by a developer.
Then came the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011… the building was severely damaged and sat awaiting a decision on whether if might be saved or not. Then suddenly the unthinkable happened…
I read the newspaper articles on-line at the time, just after the 22 February 2011 earthquake, and was stunned… there’s an entry in Wikipedia that outlines the shocking travesty that took place:
The building was purchased in 2001 by the newly formed Sydenham Heritage Trust with the help of a Christchurch City Council interest free loan.
Restoration and earthquake strengthening was an ongoing activity of the trust.
The building was damaged in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
It was subsequently demolished by a demolition company without the knowledge or consent of the owners, and without authorisation from the Historic Places Trust, the council archaeologist (who approves demolition applications) or the National Civil Defence Controller (who oversees earthquake responses).
A police complaint has been lodged, and an enquiry into the unauthorised demolition is likely.
I read this with my mouth hanging open in disbelief… the demolition company said that they carried out the work on the express instruction of the City Council … but responsibility of which appear to be now strenuously denied.
Whoever authorised it committed a travesty … that the buildings owners were not even informed until after the deed had been done is appalling.
Some 11 months later, stand taking photos of the rubble behind the fences… it’s clear that little or no effort was made to even reclaim any of the materials because the rubble is littered with glass fragments from the windows.
This is the dark side of the Christchurch earthquake aftermath, there have been more instances like this, and also of building owners denied any access to their building whilst demolition contractors either dump or “recycle” valuable materials and chattels from them.
I can only hope that whoever is responsible for these decisions and deceptions is bought to justice.
The buildings they have destroyed can not be bought back of course, but hopefully a severe penalty might serve to deter other power-happy bureaucrats from ever repeating the travesty that has taken place here.
I don’t have a photograph of the building in it’s former state, but the first Wikipedia link shows both the Church and the Old Sydenham Post Office in their glory days. (it’s a stunning photograph) The other two links detail the history of the building and it’s unauthorised demise.
On a lighter note, I discover that someone has tried to brighten up a now exposed wall behind the building next door that has also been demolished… I “love” it too…