A demolition company levelling a central Christchurch building threw out valuable records and documents despite salvaging the cabinets and cupboards in which they were stored.
The Community House building at 141 Hereford St, occupied by welfare and social service groups, was badly damaged in the February earthquake and is being demolished by March Construction.
On September 30, the 23 tenants, who had hoped to re-enter the building to retrieve records, were told none of their property could be salvaged because the building was unsafe.
The same day, staff from one of the tenants, the Christchurch Small Business Enterprise Centre (CSBEC), were coincidentally shopping at the Salvage Warehouse in Heathcote, and found their paintings, filing cabinets, cupboards, interview room tables, a dishwasher and two computers for sale. They also saw their new water heater and the kitchen sink.
Another tenant, who cannot be named, recovered a laptop from the warehouse.
CSBEC manager Lindsay Jeffs said he was flabbergasted by his staff’s discovery given they had been clearly told nothing belonging to the tenants could be salvaged.
“This came as a bit of surprise to say the least,” Jeffs said. “It was apparently so dangerous for workers they could get nothing out but the items recovered were in some cases unbolted, cut out and would have had to be taken down the stairs.”
Jeffs said he was not really concerned about tables and cabinets, but was angry salvage workers had not considered the value of records and documents to the seven community organisations on the two floors. Tenants Protection Association manager Helen Gatonyi, whose organisation was on the first floor of the building, said she had also received the notification none of her organisation’s property could be rescued but she was now very skeptical.
Emails obtained by The Press show the Christchurch Community House Tenants’ Trust (CCHTT), which represents the tenants, was told on September 30 by the building’s owner, Canterbury Community Trust (CCT), that it had received confirmation 141 was “unsafe” and “that all our [CCT’s] efforts to salvage tenant property have not been successful, we are disappointed that we were not able to effect recovery but workers’ safety is paramount”.
The emails show the discovery of the items “totally gobsmacked” CCT which asked its project manager, property manager and March Construction for an explanation.
The correspondence shows a meeting on Friday last week revealed the third and fourth floors of the building were stripped and materials recycled as “the contractor claimed none was on the list provided”.
“We are disappointed with what has transpired. We have to accept that the actions of the demolition contractor were in accordance with the contract but not within the spirit of Community House,” trust manager Wayne Ward said, in one email.
March Construction general manager Nick Carvel said the company made no money from the recycled goods, which were handled by a subcontractor.
March had not received a list of items to be retrieved and it was not its job to sort through filing cabinets and contact owners.