Christ Church Cathedral to be pulled down

Last updated 14:53 02/03/2012
Christ Church Cathedral
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/The Press

THE BELL TOLLS: Christ Church Cathedral is to be pulled down.

Cathedral to come down

Bishop Victoria Mathews
DAVID HALLETT/The Press
Bishop Victoria Matthews announces the fate of the Christ Church Cathedral in the Botanic Gardens.

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Quake-ravaged Christ Church Cathedral will be pulled down, Bishop Victoria Mathews confirmed today.

The central-city icon was badly damaged in last year's deadly February 22 earthquake and church insiders had earlier said there was little appetite to rebuild or restore it.

However, heritage campaigners had been pushing for a moratorium on any decision surrounding the Anglican cathedral.

Mathews said the Cathedral would be carefully deconstructed down to a level of approximately 2-3 metres in order to meet safety requirements and allow the safe retrieval of taonga and heritage items which could then be stored and protected until decisions about a new Cathedral were made.

"There will be no bulldozers or wrecking balls, on the job," Mathews said.

"We acknowledge the high level of community interest and sense of ownership as the cathedral was both an iconic building and a place of regular worship by many. However, this is now a very dangerous building that needs to be made safe.

"Our priority is also to ensure people working on-site are safe - in fact if anyone had been in the building on December 23 [when an aftershock hit] they would have been put at a great risk of serious injury or worse."

"We are also mindful that since December 23, the context of our decision making has changed given the further deterioration of the building and the risk of further seismic events, according to the geotechnical experts."

'OVER MY DEAD BODY'

Christchurch city councillor Aaron Keown said the cathedral would be demolished "over my dead body".

"I would be in there chaining myself to the building to stop that and I know lots of other volunteers would come in to do that.

"Forget Lucy Lawless' little eight-person campaign, this would be a big one," he said.

"We'd form a ring around the building and not let them in. It shouldn't even be a discussion."

Keown said he had been inside the cathedral after the December 23 quake and it was in "good shape".

The damaged west side was ruined but could be replaced with glass and the steeple rebuilt with wood.

Only four tiles on the roof had loosened, he said.

"If the building was in trouble, the roof would look like New Brighton beach. It would be all warped, the tiles popped and beams gone."

Keown likened it to a person "busting their leg" and the doctor telling the family, "right, we're going to have to pull the pin now".

"I don't mind making new history, but not when it's not necessary... we're going to build enough new history," he said.

Ian Lochhead, chairman of heritage advocate Interests in Conserving the Identity of Christchurch (IConIC), earlier said a moratorium was needed on any decisions about demolition.

"I think having a cooling off period would allow the best engineering and heritage advice available internationally to be brought to bear on the cathedral."

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- The Press

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