Five years after quake damage, Govt announces 'working party' for cathedral
After five years of dereliction, legal spats and uncertainty, the Government has appointed a working party to consider options for the Christ Church Cathedral.
The working party was formed last month, but announced this week by Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee after criticism from central city developers of the nearly six months of silence on the cathedral's future.
The working party comprises of high profile Christchurch developer Alasdair Cassels, the man behind 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.
It will make a recommendation for the cathedral by November 28 and provide a report to the Government and church trustees by December 7.
"There is strong public interest in what is happening to this iconic building, and I know people want to see the [Church Property Trustees] CPT able to reach a decision so that the city can move forward," Brownlee said.
He said the working party would calculate accurates costs for restoration or reinstatement of the cathedral.
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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 Government last year appointed mediator Miriam Dean, QC, in an attempt to break deadlock over the building.
Church leaders and the Government announced in December that reinstating the cathedral was being considered. An announcement on how the deadlock would be resolved was expected by campaigners in April, but did not happen.
Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews said in a written statement that she was committed to a cathedral in the square, but did not state if that would mean restoration or replacement of the building.
"I believe in the foreseeable future we will again have a Cathedral in the Square. It won't be easy but it is possible. We know its current state, what I am not able to say today is what that inspiring Cathedral will look like," she said.
"I look forward to what the working group recommends for the beloved Cathedral. I do know the life of the city of Christchurch will always be linked closely to an Anglican Cathedral in the Square."
Cassels was nominated for the working party by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, which is campaigning to restore the building.
The Anglican diocese released drone footage this week of the interior of the Christ Church Cathedral, which was shot in May. A crane was used on Thursday morning to inspect longstanding damage to the cathedral.
Labour Party Canterbury issues spokeswoman Megan Woods MP said expectations would be "very high" for a definitive announcement in December.
"The people of Christchurch have been more than patient while the church and the Government work through a complicated issue, but something has to happen. We've got to see progress."
"It's been five-and-a-half years and we still have a pile of rubble at the heart of our central city."
Developers and landowners in Cathedral Square were waiting on a cathedral decision before starting to build. City Owners Rebuild Entity chairman and developer Ernest Duval said this week that the lack of action after the Government announcement last December eroded trust in its rebuild leadership.
Property developer Miles Yeoman, who owns the former Press building site in Cathedral Square, said he had shelved hotel plans for now because there was not enough activity in the "barren wasteland" square.