Anglican Church to consider reinstating Christ Church Cathedral
The Anglican Church is resisting a full commitment to reinstating Christ Church Cathedral because of concerns over safety and cost.
Bishop Victoria Matthews partially endorsed a plan to reinstate the quake-damaged church, but did not rule out building a new, contemporary cathedral in its place.
A report by Government-appointed mediator Miriam Dean QC found the cathedral could be either reconstructed to be "indistinguishable" from its pre-quake self or replaced.
Matthews said the Church Property Trust (CPT), which owns the cathedral, would look at safety and cost issues of reinstatement. If they were manageable, a working group would lead an effort to revitalise the stricken building.
Further announcements were expected in April.
LIVE BLOG RECAP: Christ Church Cathedral announcement
"The Anglican Diocese of Christchurch and the CPT wish to move past the current deadlock to find a way forward to re-establish a cathedral in Cathedral Square," Matthews said.
"We want to support the city to move forward and we recognise the central importance of this building to many people in Christchurch."
Safety and cost issues prevented the church from committing to reinstatement now, she said.
"We couldn't commit to $105 million [the estimated reinstatement pricetag] when we actually don't have anything remotely close to that.
"The report mentioned also a contemporary build. It would be a matter of looking at different possibilities if the money is not forthcoming.
Dean's report found:
- Engineers for CPT and the Great Christchurch Building Trust (which campaigned to save the cathedral) agreed the church could be reinstated through a mix of repair, restoration, reconstruction and seismic strengthening.
- Reinstatement would likely take until the end of 2022 and cost $105m.
- Replacement could be completed by the end of 2019, costing $63m to $66m.
- The cathedral could be reinstated "to the extent that, for most people, it would be indistinguishable from the pre-earthquake building".
The decision signals a likely end to the protracted litigation that has plagued the cathedral since the February 2011 earthquake and the public, often bitter, fighting between church leaders, who wanted to partially demolish the church, and heritage campaigners who wanted to save it.
Restoration campaigner Philip Burdon, co-chair of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, said he was "delighted and relieved" to learn the cathedral could be repaired, and was certain the necessary funds could be raised.
"It had been the argument of the church that the building was unrepairable.
"The question of whether restoration was possible or not has been answered – I think that be will a considerable relief to the community."
Burdon said the trust would support the church in raising funds, or whatever else was needed to restore the building.
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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee welcomed the church's keenness to consider reinstatement.
"The positive outcome here is that there are now options to work through and that CPT is willing to do so," he said.
"The issue then comes back to cost and that is something the Church Property Trust will need absolutely certainty of before it can commit to any work going ahead."
Whether or not any public money would be used was "yet to be determined", he said.
"It really does, I think, challenge those who want to see the cathedral remain in a refurbished or restored state to come to the party with some of that fundraising."
Talks with the Government on working towards a reinstatement plan would start in the New Year, Brownlee said.
Former Dean of Christ Church Cathedral Peter Beck said it was "disappointing" more progress had not been made by Wednesday's announcement, but he welcomed what had been achieved.
"Good things take time, and while I guess like many others I was hopeful that we might get a clearer, more decisive . . . decision today, clearly it's a step forward.
"I don't think the city will really recover until the cathedral begins to re-emerge as an icon and the heart and soul of the city."
Current Dean, Lawrence Kimberley, said: "I'm really pleased that we've got some consensus around the cost and engineering issues."
"That will now mean we can have a constructive conversation about future options."
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was "over the moon" that there had been such a big step forward.
"Cathedral Square is the heart of the city, and Christ Church Cathedral is the heart of the square.
"I think I can speak for all the councillors and say we'll absolutely do anything we can to help with a reinstatement plan."
Dalziel praised both central government for commissioning the Dean report, and the CPT for recognising that their privately-owned property was so important to the city.
The church canvassed public opinion in 2013 on restoring the cathedral, building a traditional reinterpretation or a new, modern building.
At the time, it estimated restoration would cost between $104m and $221m, a huge range that only just accounts for today's figure at it low end.
The reinterpretation option – a Gothic building with modern materials – would cost between $85m and $181m and the modern building between $56m and $74m.
February 2011: Cathedral damaged in major earthquake.
December 2011: Cathedral further damaged in two aftershocks.
March 2012: Bishop Matthews confirms the Christ Church Cathedral is to be demolished.
April 2012: Demolition begins with west wall of spire.
November 2012: Demolition work put on hold by the High Court.
April 2013: Three options presented to the public for cathedral: modern replacement, restoration, and rebuild with modern materials.
September 2013: Modern option chosen by church.
May 2014: High Court lifts injunction stopping demolition. This was upheld in the Appeal Court in July.
September 2015: Anglican diocese announce plans to bring in an independent Government-appointed consultant.
December 2015: The Anglican Church announces it will consider reinstating the cathedral.