Landslide in votes might sway church

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2013
Daniel Tobin

The Press hit the streets to see what the public make of the three proposed Cathedral rebuild designs.

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The future of Christ Church Cathedral will not be decided by a "public vote" but the people's opinion could be "very persuasive" if one of the designs gets overwhelming support, Bishop Victoria Matthews says.

Three options for the cathedral were revealed in The Press yesterday, including full restoration, traditional - a reinterpretation of the neo-Gothic cathedral in modern materials, and a completely new modern building.

The designs were released as part of a call for public feedback before Anglican leaders decide the future of the cathedral next month.

The city appears divided over the options, with nearly 8000 voters in a Press online poll almost evenly split between the three options.

The contemporary design was edging ahead with about 36 per cent of the vote last night, but the other two schemes were attracting about 30 per cent each.

Matthews said last night the public consultation would not be the deciding factor.

"If it is overwhelming that would be very persuasive but not the deciding vote. We are not voting in a design but we are listening to what the public have to say."

She would not reveal her preferred option.

"I'm not prepared to comment on that. In terms of governance it would be poor leadership to comment on my preference at this stage," she said.

"Everyone who has been involved has a preference one way or the other, but at this point we have agreed we will not speak of any preference because we want to hear what the public thinks and listen very carefully to that."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has backed the contemporary option.

"I love the idea of something new. I think it's about looking forward rather than looking back, and this design helps with that," he said.

Parker said the contemporary option being the cheapest and quickest was simply a bonus.

"There's another reason why the contemporary vision starts to make a lot more sense, on the basis of costs and time alone," he said.

"It's time to move on and this building can actually play a role in helping us move on."

The co-chairman of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, Philip Burdon, called the cost of the designs "utterly absurd".

"The reality is that [the designs] are self-serving and distorted." Burdon and the trust had been fighting the demolition of the cathedral and supported the restoration of the historic building.

The restoration would cost between $104 million and $221m, the Gothic building with modern materials would cost between $85 and $181m, while the modern building would cost between $56m and $74m.

CATHEDRAL MAY STAY

Campaigners hoping to restore Christ Church Cathedral have been given a boost by a cautious government signal that make-safe plans could work.

The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, which has been campaigning to restore the cathedral, has worked up a plan to make the building safe without any demolition.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) initially said the plan could not be safely executed but now feels many safety concerns have been addressed.

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Cera has sent a letter to Anglican leaders stating the scheme has gone "some way to mitigating safety concerns".

Trust co-chairman Jim Anderton was pleased with the letter.

"A year ago we were being told the cathedral was dangerous and had to come down immediately, there was no way it could be made safe," he said.

"Now we have some understanding that the cathedral is not a ruin and can be made safe."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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