Ambitious plans for a memorial to the way New Zealanders responded after the March 15 terror attack have been put on hold after “resistance” from the Christchurch community.
The New Zealand Federation of Islamic Associations (FIANZ) unveiled plans in June for an elaborate landscaped park, large ornamental water feature and conference centre for Christchurch to “capture the legacy of how New Zealanders all came together as one” after the shootings at two Christchurch mosques.
One Muslim community leader said he was glad the project had been put on hold, saying the memorial was “over the top” and “obscene” .
FIANZ president Mustafa Farouk said the proposal was rejected by Christchurch locals, who feared the idea was being imposed on them by the Wellington-based organisation.
“We are holding back a little bit to allow the city to heal and then for them to take leadership and we will support them. We want the people in the city to tell us how we can help,” he said.
Muslim Association of Canterbury secretary Feroz Ditta said they felt the FIANZ memorial plan “came out of the blue”.
“They were spending close to $15 million on a garden. There was no consultation. We weren’t consulted.
“What they were proposing was a bit over the top. It was just obscene.”
Federation of Islamic Associations NZ president Mustafa Farouk believes the plans are realistic.
He said discussion about a memorial to the attack was only just beginning.
“A process needs to happen for us to make a decision, but that dialogue hasn’t started yet.
“We have been busy with the welfare of our community.”
Farouk said they still wanted to build a memorial in Christchurch that would focus on the New Zealand response, while a second memorial would honour the 51 victims of the attack.
“We are hoping that when the city heals a bit more we will come down and talk to the Christchurch City Council and Christchurch people and victim’s families and see what we can do.
“The way New Zealand responded to the attack was very special and we should commemorate that.”
He wanted the memorial to be a grand gesture.
“We don’t want to make a small memorial tucked away in a corner in Christchurch that no-one will notice.”
The architecture firm behind the concept plans, Apa Architects in Rotorua, estimated the project would cost between $10m and $15m to build. Landscape architects have estimated it could cost twice as much.
Farouk said the project could be partly funded by countries that lost people in the attack. They had approached embassies for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
“We were trying to strike while the iron was hot. We were trying to get engagement from potential funders when things were fresh in their minds,” he said.
“They were willing to do something and happy with the designs. They were willing to help.”