Second campaign group prepare legal case

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2013

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A legal wrangle over Christ Church Cathedral's fate is far from over despite a court ruling demolition may proceed.

The Court of Appeal dealt those fighting for the landmark's restoration a hefty blow on Friday when it dismissed an appeal against a High Court decision allowing the Anglican Church to deconstruct.

The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, which first sought the judicial review nearly a year ago, is unsure about continuing legal action.

However, a second campaign group, Restore Christchurch Cathedral, told The Press it was preparing a legal case of its own.

Last year the group employed high-profile Auckland lawyer, Mai Chen, who found the demolition order may be unlawful.

Restore Christchurch Cathedral spokesman Mark Belton said it was too early for the church to "pop the cork and celebrate" last week's judgment.

"It isn't a victory in any sense of the word," he said.

Chen's view was the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) would be breaching its statutory obligation to protect heritage buildings by approving the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's section 38 demolition order.

The NZHPT was obligated under the the Historic Places Act to consider the "least possible alteration or loss" of heritage values despite the act being amended for emergency demolition after the February 2011 quake, Chen said.

Expert engineering advice proved the cathedral could be safely maintained in its existing state or restored to pre-quake condition.

Belton said it was inconceivable the NZHPT could grant the demolition order, but legal action would be taken if it did.

"We know [NZHPT] have been considering [the demolition order] for some time," he said.

"Our position is if the Historic Places Trust didn't withhold a demolition consent for a building which has to be right at the top of the pile of the most important historic buildings in New Zealand, you'd have to question what purpose the trust has."

The Press understands that approval for demolition of the spire only had been given and the NZHPT board had passed a resolution in April last year endorsing the call for a halt to further demolition.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust could not be contacted yesterday.

A spokeswoman said last October the trust needed to "work through the points raised" in Chen's legal opinion.

Christchurch Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews said after the Court of Appeal judgment the restoration campaigners were "prepared to do anything to get what they want".

"I have no expectation that they're now going to go away quietly," she said.

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Belton said his group did not want to fight through the courts.

"We would love to see them combine with the rest of the community who are concerned [about restoration] and we can all work together."

- The Press

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