Unfinished and Funny Business

Those of us who know and love Ōtautahi Christchurch also know about the inevitability of controversy over any new project undertaken in the city – stadia, motorways, multi-storied buildings – in fact you could argue that anything that smacks of change will excite previously unknown sensitivities and the personing of the barricades of the people’s choice and voice will commence.

What may not be appreciated is that this is a long-held tradition from the early days of the Christchurch municipality. In 1865 local lawyer Mr W.H. Wynn-Williams formed the Ratepayers Mutual Protection Association in protest against the suggestion that he and other residents of Christchurch might be expected to pay rates to the recently formed Christchurch Municipal Council to fund essentials like inner-city bridges, street lighting, road repair and water supplies.

After all, who needs a healthy, liveable and fiscally secure city?

A Long-standing Civic Tradition of Argument and Noise

Over the years different projects have been drawn up and soundings of the populace made. And the projects either fire ahead, full of enthusiasm, or die ignoble deaths on the sacrificial bonfire of public opinion.

With this in mind, the team on the Tuakiri|Identity, Level 2 of Tῡranga have put together a pop-up exhibition entitled Unfinished Business to explore some glorious and grandiose fails of functionality, practicality, popularity and plain common sense. The exhibition is on from Wednesday 13 December to Sunday 14 January. 

For example, did you know that the original plans for the city involved a canal along what is now Linwood Avenue, to bring goods, stock and people from the port at Lyttelton, around to Sumner and by canal up to The Bricks on the River Avon? An idea lost in the belching smoke of railway expansion and the success of the Lyttelton Rail Tunnel but revived again in the early 20th century to provide an alternative access between the port and the city via Woolston.

Or that the worthy burgesses of New Brighton were so jealous of the tourist appeal of Cave Rock in Sumner that they proposed building their own equivalent in painted concrete in the sea off their beach?

Or that the Christchurch City Council commissioned a specially built tram carriage to act as a hearse for funerals of tram-travelling mourners?

Thinking big... or bigger?

Or that a grand design for Cathedral Square incorporating tram shelter, parcels office, peace memorial and public conveniences for men, women and children was soundly rebuffed and thwarted by a legal challenge brought by the Save Our Square Committee?

Or that a similar protest was made over fifty years later by the Protect Victoria Square Society in opposition to the proposal to build a 167 metre high tower in Victoria Square?

These projects and more will be on show in the Unfinished Business exhibition, on Tuakiri|Identity Floor of Tῡranga, from Wednesday 13 December until Sunday 14 January 2024.

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