Owners 'not obliged' to save cathedral

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 12:34 04/10/2012

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Arguments that the owners of Christ Church Cathedral are obliged to repair and save the earthquake-damaged building are "not valid", a court has heard.

The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) is contesting in the High Court in Christchurch the right of the cathedral's owner, the Church Property Trust (CPT), to deconstruct the building, claiming the move breaches a 2003 act of Parliament protecting church buildings.

The cathedral was badly damaged in the Boxing Day 2010 and February 22, 2011, quakes and suffered further in aftershocks.

Counsel for the CPT, Jared Ormsby, today said earlier legislation that made the CPT trustees of the cathedral land and buildings was not subject to the 2003 legislation.

"Prior to 2003, the cathedral land and buildings were not in the dean and chapter estate [property originally held by the trustees] and that's made clear by the 1879 [Church Property Trust] act," he said.

"What that means in this ... idea of importing from the dean and chapter estate the words 'repair and maintenance' [from the 2003 act] is not valid."

Ormsby detailed the quake damage the building had suffered since September 4, 2010, and the work of the Cathedral Project Group, which considered options to repair or demolish the church.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), which issued a dangerous-building notice on the cathedral, had "reservations" about the temporary strengthening and safety measures that came with the maximum retention option, he said.

The Cathedral Project Group last year considered several options, including one to save as much of the building as possible, before deciding to bring it down.

The GCBT provided its own plan to save the cathedral, and Justice Chisholm questioned whether the later option had been properly considered by Cera.

"I'm not sure if I can answer that, sir," Ormsby replied.

"What we do know is Cera have concerns about temporary supports, which is part of both maximum retention options."

The hearing will end today and a decision is expected next week.

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- The Press

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