About Us

About the Christchurch Civic Trust

Outrage arose amongst concerned citizens when, in 1964, the Christchurch City Council chopped down (overnight) a double row of mature trees in Rolleston Avenue.

A group of seven formed the City Planning Study Group to keep a watch on the city’s well-being.

They met on a regular basis to discuss city planning matters and were described in the local paper as a “vociferous minority”.

The proposed Master Traffic Plan for Christchurch engaged the group. A major road reconstruction was proposed from Fendalton Road to connect directly via a new bridge to one-way Salisbury Street, effectively transferring land from North Hagley Park to Little Hagley Park.
Major changes at Carlton Mill Corner were included in the plan, deemed nonsense by an engineer in the group. From this, the Christchurch Civic Trust was founded in 1965 and continues strongly to this day.
Note: this road realignment never eventuated, but later, student pranks using fake survey markers for the road did arouse citizen concern, confirming that messing with Hagley Park is not an option that will win votes in local body elections.

The Civic Trust Board meets monthly and considers a wide range of subjects. Preparation of submissions to the Christchurch City Council, both written and oral, are frequent agenda items.

The Civic Trust is an appointed member of the Christchurch City Council’s Hagley Park Reference Group. It has a consultative role in the appointment of Trustees for the Canterbury Arts Centre. This recognises the Trust’s historical role in the preservation of that significant neo-gothic architectural complex.

The Civic Trust has a history of fund-raising to purchase property for open access by the public. The role played by the Christchurch Civic Trust has been critical. The Civic Trust’s efforts raised the money to save Mona Vale. In June 1969 control passed to the CCC and then Riccarton Borough Council for its on-going management. Both Mona Vale, and reserves in the Port Hills financed through Civic Trust efforts, provide opportunities for enjoyment by the public.
The Civic Trust seeks to encourage owners of significant heritage properties to resist the temptation to demolish them in favour of more profitable developments of their land. The Trust has annual awards to acknowledge the often sacrificial efforts made to save valued heritage buildings.

The Canterbury earthquakes did Christchurch no favours with respect to the retention of many of its significant heritage buildings. Whilst dangerous buildings that could not be saved at a reasonable cost were rightfully demolished, others not a threat to safety sadly were torn down at the request of their owners.

The Civic Trust supported the reinstatement of Christchurch Cathedral, a major heritage asset that contributes ironically to the image of Christchurch.
The Civic Trust vigorously campaigned to have the Citizens War Memorial retained within Cathedral Square when it was ousted from Church-owned land. It was not to be treated like a chess piece to be moved from (Cathedral) square to (Cranmer) square.
The Civic Trust has been involved in contentious litigation from time to time, particularly with respect to the Arts Centre, Canterbury Museum, and Hagley Park. In all cases the costs incurred had to be covered by donations, use of pro bono experts, and interest-free loans from sympathetic and usually anonymous sources.

The Civic Trust has no regular income other than from its modest membership dues. Taking on debt therefore needs the backing from others if the Trust feels motivated to join in the contest of issues of greatest civic significance.

Trees were the galvanising reason for forming the initial group that quickly became an incorporated non-governmental body. With the shameful reduction in city tree canopy cover and the crisis of global heating, the Trust continues to emphasise the vital importance of trees in Christchurch.

Christchurch Civic Trust Board Members

Ross Gray, Christchurch Civic Trust Chair

Ross Gray

Chair

A well-respected contemporary painter with an MFA (Dist) and Dip Tchg and work in numerous public collections, Ross taught Art and Art History from 1969-2016, including as HOD Art at Cashmere High School from 1981-1995.

Since the mid-90s, his focus shifted towards heritage building preservation. Ross has been actively involved with Christchurch Civic Trust, Historic Places Canterbury, and the Restore Christchurch Cathedral Group. Serving as Deputy Chair and later Chair of the Civic Trust, he campaigned against heritage demolitions post-Canterbury earthquakes and convened the McLean’s Mansion Fundraising Group.

His dedication to heritage preservation earned him a 2021 CCC Civic Award, underscoring his commitment to the principle that “the greenest building is the one standing.” – wins for CO2 reduction and for heritage.

Deputy Chair Hamish Gilchrest

Hamish Gilchrist

Deputy Chair

Originally from Dunedin, Hamish now calls Christchurch home. With a professional background in Graphic Arts, Newspapers, and Print, he has cultivated a deep appreciation for heritage buildings, parks, trees, and gardens in both cities. Hamish’s commitment to heritage conservation is evident through his active role in the fundraising committee of the McLean’s Mansion Charitable Trust, where he works to secure funds for the mansion’s restoration and increase public awareness of this significant structure.

A volunteer Visitor Ambassador at Te Matatiki Toi Ora, The Arts Centre, Hamish was also elected to the board of the Christchurch Civic Trust (CCT). He is dedicated to elevating the cause of heritage preservation and sensitive restorations while advocating for well-designed, innovative new buildings in post-earthquake Christchurch.

Sandra Shaw, Christchurch Civic Trust Secretary

Sandra Shaw

General Secretary

A lifelong Christchurch resident, Sandra transitioned from a retailer to a dedicated heritage and environmental advocate following the 2011 earthquakes. After losing her business to the disaster, she immersed herself in heritage preservation efforts.

Sandra actively contributed to the Restore Christchurch Cathedral committee and volunteered at the award-winning Shop 7, highlighting the plight of demolished heritage buildings. Her fundraising prowess shone through her successful sales table in Shop 7 and involvement in the McLean’s Mansion Fundraising Group.

Joining the Christchurch Civic Trust in 2018, Sandra’s passion extends to protecting Christchurch’s tree cover, advocating against the loss of green spaces amid urban development.

Board Member No Photo

Judith Knibb

Minutes Secretary

Judith hails from Mid-Canterbury and has been a Christchurch local since her time at Canterbury University. With a career in secondary education, encompassing both teaching and senior management roles, Judith has developed a keen interest in restoration, design, and heritage preservation. Her involvement with Heritage Roses NZ, including a stint as the Christchurch Convenor, complements her work with the Old Rose Garden at Mona Vale. In 2016, she furthered her commitment to heritage conservation by being elected to the Civic Trust Board.

Tresurer Lindsey Carswell

Lindsay Carswell

Treasurer

Lindsay, elected to the Civic Trust Board in 2001, served as secretary until 2011 before becoming Treasurer.

His career began as an aircraft engineer with National Airways in the 1960s, followed by a significant shift in the 1970s when he completed a commerce degree and transitioned into teaching accountancy and economics.

Lindsay actively participated as the Civic Trust representative on the Port Hills Park Trust Board from 2002 to 2014.

In 2015 and 2016, Lindsay was instrumental in opposing the Christchurch Proposed Replacement District Plan, which aimed to de-list many significant trees from the council’s protected trees register. His efforts were pivotal in preserving numerous important trees in the city.

Board Member Mark Belton

Mark Belton

Board Member

Mark, a forest ecologist and ardent tree enthusiast, has called Christchurch home since his university days.

He passionately advocates for the preservation and enrichment of the city’s verdant landscapes, appreciating the early settlers’ vision of planting diverse, large specimen trees. Mark equally values Christchurch’s architectural heritage, recognizing the challenges and losses from the earthquakes.

As a key figure in the campaign to save Christchurch Cathedral, Mark continues his dedication with the Civic Trust, focusing on safeguarding and enhancing the city’s architectural treasures and its picturesque landscapes.

Board Member Vivian Bishop

Vivien Bishop

Board Member

Vivien Bishop, an alumnus of Canterbury University with Honours in Fine Arts and recipient of the Lonsdale Prize, has made notable contributions to the art world, with her work featured in private and public collections, including New Zealand’s National Art Gallery. Her career has spanned lecturing in art, teaching, and working with antiques, followed by becoming a G.I.A. Diamonds Graduate.

A member of the Friends of the Botanic Gardens and the Vintage Homes Restorers’ Group, Vivien advocates for the protection of significant trees in Christchurch. She resides in a historic 1892 house and has been a member of the Christchurch Civic Trust Board since 2011.

Board Member No Photo

Anne Dingwall

Board Member

Anne Dingwall, with an MA (Hons), Dip Tchg, TEFL Cert, and a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, has been a proactive member of the Civic Trust Board since 2000. Her advocacy for Hagley Park is deeply rooted in its legacy as a public park, a passion inspired by her father’s role in its statutory protection.

Anne’s efforts have contributed to Hagley Park’s recognition as a site of national importance, underscored by its Environment Court listing in 2013 and inclusion in the CCC District Plan of 2016. She convenes the Hagley Park and Open Spaces Subcommittee and serves on the Heritage, Urban Design, and Resource Management Subcommittee.

From 2007 – 2023 Anne represented the Civic Trust on the Christchurch Nurses’ Memorial Chapel Trust Board.

Professor Chris Kissling

Professor Chris Kissling

Board Member

Born in Gisborne, Professor Chris Kissling is a renowned geographer with a PhD from McGill University. His expertise lies in transport and urban/regional planning.

Appointed Emeritus Professor by Lincoln University in 2009, he has also played pivotal roles in professional societies like the Christchurch Civic Trust. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and the Royal Aeronautical Society, he has earned numerous awards.

Passionate about heritage preservation, particularly Hagley Park, he was instrumental in the McLean’s Mansion restoration. Chris enjoys golf, walking his Labrador, and gardening.

Board Member Erin Oakley

Erin Oakley

Board Member

An IT professional from Christchurch, brings a wealth of experience from diverse roles in community organisations. A lifetime resident of Christchurch, her extensive travels and time living abroad have deepened her appreciation for heritage.

Witnessing the earthquakes and their aftermath, Erin has developed a profound understanding of the value of architectural heritage.

She has been actively involved in the McLean’s Mansion Fundraising Group, contributing significantly to heritage preservation. Erin is now eager to further her impact through her involvement with the Christchurch Civic Trust, focusing on protecting and enhancing the city’s architectural legacy.

Board Member Neil Roberts

Neil Roberts

Board Member

With a BA in Art History and Diplomas in Fine Arts and Teaching, Neil joined the Board in 2007, focusing on preserving architectural heritage. Until 2006, he served as the senior curator at both the Robert McDougall Art Gallery and the Christchurch Art Gallery – Te Puna o Waiwhetu. Neil led the Trust as chairman from 2011 to 2016 and chaired the Sydenham Heritage Trust from 2001 to 2009. He was also involved with the Inner City West Neighbourhood Association (ICON) between 2016 and 2019. Currently, he is co-chair of the Sutton Heritage House and Garden Trust.

Board Member Jocelyn Sleigh

Jocelyn Sleigh

Board Member

Holding a BA in History and Political Science, Jocelyn has diverse experience as a school teacher and librarian. She founded and successfully ran High Country Knitwear for 30 years. In 1984, Jocelyn founded the Timaru Civic Trust, sparked by the local council’s decision to demolish Timaru’s oldest building, the Landing Services Building (1871-1876). Her efforts have since transformed the building into a thriving hub featuring Speighs Ale House, a conference and wedding venue, the Māori Rock Art Centre, and a tourist office.

Jocelyn moved to Christchurch in 2012 and joined the Christchurch Civic Trust Board in 2019.

Rob Watson, Christchurch Civic Trust Board Member

Rob Watson

Board Member

Robert, a Christchurch resident since 1968 with deep family roots in the city, has a keen interest in its history, landscape, and architecture. He studied law at the city campus (now The Arts Centre) and practiced briefly on Hereford Street.

After time in the UK and Europe, he pursued landscape architecture at Lincoln University. In 1983, Robert established his landscape architecture practice, operating from 65 Cambridge Terrace since 1997.

A Registered Fellow of the NZ Institute of Landscape Architects and involved with several trusts, his 40-year career spans numerous design projects, including The Arts Centre and the Bill Sutton garden.

Groups we're associated with:

  • HPA – Historic Places Aotearoa
  • HPC – Historic Places Canterbury
  • Akaroa Civic Trust
  • Civic Trust Auckland
  • Timaru Civic Trust
  • Rose Historic Chapel
  • Wellington Civic Trust
  • ICON – Inner City West Neighbourhood Association
  • The Christchurch Nurses’ Memorial Chapel
  • CRA – Combined Residents’ Association
  • Appointed member of Christchurch City Council Hagley Park Reference Group.