My home city of Christchurch is continuing to wrestle with the issue of heritage, particularly in relation to the restoration of our historic buildings following the devastating earthquakes and aftershocks that have hit Canterbury over the last fourteen months. Because the challenges of rebuilding of the city are so immense and the cost of restoration so high, there is considerable discussion and varied opinion on the place and priority of heritage in the future fabric of our city. It seems quite ironic that the city’s Art Gallery, designed and constructed in the last few years, became the home of the city’s council and recovery teams over the ensuing months following the cataclysm of last February’s quake. The building survived the tremors relatively unscathed, no doubt because of its modern design and superior engineering. Somewhat controversial when first erected, it has become one of the main attractions of the city in the last few years, admired and supported by Cantabrians and visitors alike.
In close juxtaposition to the historic Arts Centre with its Gothic Architecture, the new Art Gallery creats a dramatic contrast to the older buildings which have now sustained such appalling damage. It will have a critical role to play in the support of the Arts in Christchurch as the people of Canterbury and the whole of New Zealand set about the immense task of rebuilding this city and preserving the critical elements of our heritage in the years ahead. Unfortunately, I have needed to update these details as the Art Gallery has sustained significant damage to its substructure and will be out of action until June 2013! (posted June 2012)
What price can be placed on the heritage of a region and how can that be defined and measured against the essential day to day needs and health of a community? The value, spiritually and emotionally, of some of the city’s heritage buildings is well recognized and if they were to be lost there would be a terrible price to pay in terms of the pleasure and beauty of living in the new city of Christchurch. How do we find the balance in these issues? Where would you stand?
The people of this region have shown wonderful courage, resilience and generosity in the many months since the destruction and loss of life one year ago. Humour has brought relief and softened the anxiety of day to day living with the continuing aftershocks. We have received support from people all over New Zealand and other parts of the world. We will need to work together, encourage our leaders and each other to have a sustained vision for the future, while continuing to care for those who still endure very difficult circumstances every day.
“Wisdom is like honey for your life – if you find it, there is hope in the days ahead”.