New Zealand: Repairing earthquake-damaged heritage buildings

For owners of earthquake-damaged heritage buildings in Canterbury, the options for dealing with repairs and/or demolition are complicated by the Canterbury Earthquake (Historic Places Act) Order. The Christchurch City Plan may also be relevant.

The Canterbury Earthquake (Historic Places Act) Order 2011

Applications for authorities for all work carried out on sites or buildings that have been affected by the Canterbury earthquake that may affect archaeological sites is processed under the Order. This covers Christchurch City, Selwyn District and Waimakiriri District.

The Order aims to provide a streamlined and simplified process so that owners can apply for an authority and receive a decision in a short timeframe. It appoints Canterbury archaeological officers who are given the power to grant "emergency" authorities for building works to be completed on an archaeological site.

Application forms for an emergency authority can be downloaded from:

How do you know if your building is an archaeological site?

All pre-1900 buildings are automatically deemed to be archaeological sites, although it's not that simple. Owners should keep in mind that:

  • The Historic Places Trust has the discretion to make certain post-1900 buildings or sites subject to restrictions imposed by the Act;
  • The definition of "archaeological site" applies to any site that "is or may be able through investigation by archaeological methods to provide evidence relating to the history of New Zealand." This captures post-1900 buildings of historical value; and
  • The Order requires owners to apply for an authority where there is "reasonable cause to suspect" a site is an archaeological site.

If you suspect a building or site could be an archaeological site, investigate further as you may otherwise risk breaching the Order by demolishing it without an authority. The Historic Places Trust keeps a register, available on their website, which allows you to search the heritage status of buildings or sites entered on the register, although this is not a complete record.

Christchurch City Plan

Besides any archaeological status of the site, it may also have additional heritage status under Part 10 of the Christchurch City Plan

If so, it will be included in the 'List of protected buildings, objects and places' in Part 10 of the Plan. All protected items on the list are ranked in terms of their overall significance, as follows:

Group 1 – International or national significance

Group 2 – National or regional significance

Group 3 – Regional or metropolitan significance

Group 4 – Metropolitan or local significance

Depending on which group is applicable, the restrictions on work you may do to the building, such as altering, removing or demolishing it will vary.

An application for resource consent to demolish a protected building is required under the Plan, regardless of which group the building is in.

If demolition is not appropriate, repairing the building may be and Council funding is available to protected buildings listed in the Plan from the Heritage Incentive Grants scheme. Further, the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Building Fund is an appeal with funding from the Government, territorial authorities, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and donations to assist where insurance money will not cover the costs of repair.

More information on funding can be found at:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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