Peters backing fix for 'icon'

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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Restoration of the Christ Church Cathedral could be a condition of any post-election coalition deal, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says.

Peters, who was visiting Christchurch yesterday, called for government intervention and funding for the restoration of the earthquake-damaged landmark.

He told The Press restoration of the cathedral would "certainly" be part of coalition talks with the Government if he secured enough votes in the September election.

"I've already given a written commitment that I would raise this in any negotiations," he said.

"I am seriously committed to this project. It means much more than just the cathedral."

Peters was "very, very confident" a deal could be reached.

Anglican leaders have decided to largely demolish the cathedral, but heritage campaigners are taking legal action to stop it.

Peters said the Government should intervene to restore the cathedral because it was such a significant building.

"This is a huge icon building and critical as a statement of central government belief in the city. We should be intervening because it can be restored and it should be restored.

"[The] Government can find all sorts of money for all sorts of projects, including $45 million for the Novopay debacle. This present Government is prepared to put $42m a year into Auckland casino. The cathedral would be less money for far less time."

Peters said he did not understand why Bishop Victoria Matthews did not want to restore the building.

"I don't understand how the specialness of this building is not grasped. I don't want to open a personal feud with the bishop, but on this matter she is seriously wrong. I'm not Anglican and I'm from the North Island, but that's my view."

Anglican church spokesman Jayson Rhodes said Peters' comments suggested "the cathedral be taken off the Anglican church".

He said it was surprising that Peters had not spoken to the church trustees who had made a decision based on "issues including building resilience and cost".

Peters' suggestion that the land was gifted to the church by European settlers was wrong.

"It was Anglicans giving to Anglicans."

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- The Press

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