Cathedral working group investigating how to restore historic Christchurch building

The Christ Church Cathedral is open to the elements and overgrown.
Iain McGregor

The Christ Church Cathedral is open to the elements and overgrown.

The working group tasked with breaking the deadlock on the Christ Church Cathedral is only investigating how to restore the historic building. It is not considering demolition.

The move is the first official indication that the cathedral, which once faced demolition, could be largely restored to its previous state.

In June, the Government tasked the group to find a solution for the building, which has been holding up the redevelopment of Cathedral Square.

Former civil servant Geoff Dangerfield is chairman of a government working party tasked with resolving the Anglican ...
NZ Festival

Former civil servant Geoff Dangerfield is chairman of a government working party tasked with resolving the Anglican cathedral deadlock.

Working group chairman Geoff Dangerfield said they were investigating how to "repair, restore and, in some parts, rebuild" the cathedral and were being "careful to ensure the building retains its external appearance as much as possible".

READ MORE:
Christ Church Cathedral: why all the fuss?
Anglican Church to consider reinstating Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral plans announcement due soon

 
The west wall of the cathedral collapsed in the June 2011 earthquakes.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

The west wall of the cathedral collapsed in the June 2011 earthquakes.

It will make a non-binding recommendation on the building to government and church trustees by November 28.

The Anglican cathedral has been sitting damaged in Christchurch's city centre for more than five years, with no clear decision on its possible fate.

The working party's instructions from government, obtained under the Official Information Act by Fairfax, task the group with identifying "feasible, achievable and fully costed options to progress the reinstatement of the Christ Church Cathedral".

Dangerfield said "reinstatement" meant a "mixture of restoration, repair and rebuild".

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"We are looking for a functional church," he said.

"This is not a new rebuild. We are trying to look for ways to repair, restore and, in some parts, rebuild the cathedral."

"Restoration, especially to some folks, has a particularly limited meaning. That is why the word reinstatement is very important."

"We are being really careful to ensure the building retains its external appearance as much as possible."

He said they were looking into ways to rebuild the collapsed tower, steeple and west wall.

"The practicalities of this are of paramount concern, as well as how it can be funded over time," he said.

One source close to the situation said there appeared to be consensus in the group to largely restore the building. The source said the group was looking at how that might be funded and practically achieved.

However, Dangerfield said the group could only make recommendations on the cathedral.

"The working party is charged with reviewing options and making recommendations. It is up to the minister and the church to review those recommendations."

Great Christchurch Buildings Trust co-chairman Jim Anderton said the Government's instructions for the working group favoured restoration.

"Reinstatement is a politically correct word for restoration. When you use the word restoration people think of the extreme of every nut and bolt."

"Reinstatement means doing everything we can to restore the original building, but it has to be within reason."

Restore Christ Church Cathedral Group co-chairman Mark Belton, who has made a presentation to the working group, said restoration was being considered carefully.

"There seems to be a considerable amount of work going into that. That wouldn't be happening if it wasn't being given deep consideration,"  he said.

The Government's instructions for the group asked them to investigate a possible construction alliance to help rebuild the cathedral, similar to the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team that repaired pipes and roads in post-quake Canterbury. 

The document states the alliance would "provide advice on methods, timelines and costs for any reinstatement option".

The Anglican Church declined to comment. Spokesman Jayson Rhodes said "any questions sit with the working group at this point".

Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews has previously said she was committed to a cathedral in the square, but not whether it would be a restoration or replacement of the existing building.

The working party comprises of high profile Christchurch developer Alasdair Cassels – the man behind the heritage-inspired The Tannery shopping centre in Woolston – former Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority general manager Steve Wakefield, National Party regional chair Roger Bridge, former NZ Transport Agency head Geoff Dangerfield and academic Sue McKenzie.

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