The Anglican church says a British multimillionaire's suggestion that it hand over Christ Church Cathedral for restoration is "completely bizarre".
UK businessman Hamish Ogston yesterday announced he would fund an independent survey to find out what residents wanted to see happen to the ill-fated Cathedral Square centrepiece. Shortly after the February 2011 earthquake Ogston pledged $4 million to kickstart the restoration of the building and said he wanted to reiterate his pledge.
"There should be a foundation set up which will take over the reconstruction of the cathedral, independent of the Anglican church, but with their co-operation," he said.
The media announcement took place at the Christchurch City Council building alongside former MPs and co-chairmen of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.
Spokesman for the Anglican Diocese Jayson Rhodes told The Press Bishop Victoria Matthews was "astounded" when she heard about Ogston's proposal through the media. "There was no information, no invitation to the announcement - there was nothing," he said.
"It's just completely bizarre and we feel like the odd one out at kindergarten when everyone else has been invited to a party except us."
Rhodes said the Church Property Trustees had made a decision about the future of the cathedral after months of research, advice and public consultation.
"For somebody to come in from afar, make no contact with us and then fly out [of the country] tomorrow is just bizarre."
Rhodes said preliminary legal advice confirmed the Church Property Trustees must maintain ownership and control at all times.
Ogston said it would cost $67 million to fully restore the cathedral and bring it up to code. After insurance payments and donations there was only a $15 million shortfall.
"That's a small sum of money," he said.
He said the restoration should be headed by a "group of people who can ensure the cathedral is restored quickly and returned to the Anglican church on completion".
Ogston believed that if people knew the cathedral could be restored without any cost to the ratepayers they would want it to go ahead.
"I want to help the cathedral have a future rather than sitting in limbo . . . so let's take it out of the hands of the Anglicans and give it to the community, if they want it."
Dalziel said she liked the idea of "asking what people want for the heart of their city".
"If the people of Christchurch send a strong message, it will help the conversation."
Dalziel told The Press the council did not have a position on the cathedral but she was "personally keen to facilitate any move that could contribute to a resolution".
However, yesterday afternoon she said she was "sorry to learn the organisers had not arranged for Mr Ogston to meet the Bishop".
In September the church confirmed it had ruled out restoring thedamaged landmark in favour of a contemporary replacement.
A legal challenge from the GCBT to the Supreme Court was declined in December. Anderton told The Press the reason the church was not contacted before the announcement was because the GCBT anticipated the "usual response and blocks".
WHO IS MONEY PLEDGER HAMISH OGSTON?
Hamish Ogston joined the Norwegian Merchant Navy at the age of 16 and found himself in Lyttelton Port, Christchurch, a year later. He worked on Kiwi dairy farms before travelling to Australia and Canada.
In 1980 he founded the CPP Group - a British company that sells products including mobile-phone, credit-card and identity protection insurance services.
Thirty years later he pocketed £120 million when he floated the company on the stock market. In March 2011 it was revealed that CPP was under investigation by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The Guardian newspaper reported in August 2013 that CPP faced near collapse after it was fined £10.5m by the FCA in 2012.
The newspaper reported that Ogston offered to buy back the company but he pulled out of talks and resigned as a director of the company in June 2013.
Ogston gained a reputation as a philanthropist when he gave £2 million to the restoration of York Minster in 2008. He was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to business in 2011 and reportedly owns a multimillion-pound house near Harrods in Knightsbridge, London.
Jim Anderton, co-chairman of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust that organised yesterday's announcement, said he was aware of the issues surrounding CPP. "Firstly, [Ogston] is no longer the chairman of that company . . . the money for the cathedral is his own and he has his own view on [what happened]."
- The Press