Christ Church Cathedral 'holding up city's regeneration' as government intervention calls grow
The neglected Christ Church Cathedral is one of about 30 sites being targeted by council for holding up the city's regeneration.
The Christchurch City Council's list comes amid growing calls for the Government to take control of the earthquake-damaged building, which has been sitting derelict in Cathedral Square since the February 2011 tremor.
Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner wants action on the site before a planned Anglican vote on its future in September, while campaigners have called for immediate government intervention to restore the cathedral.
Christchurch city councillors will on Thursday consider plans to tackle a "stubborn group of around 30 buildings and sites" identified as barriers to regeneration. The list will be released on Tuesday and includes the cathedral, Stuff understands.
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Council could use land-acquisition powers in partnership with government agencies like Regenerate Christchurch to spur progress on problem sites. It could also pressure landowners into taking action by charging fees for the use of public land, for example when damaged buildings are encroaching on the pavement. The fees already exist, but have been waived in the past.
At least one landowner on High St has received a council letter outlining the plans and pressuring them to take action.
Bishop Victoria Matthews announced on Sunday that a decision on the cathedral's future would not be made until September. It will be made in a vote by the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch's synod – a 225-member governing body that includes elected parishioners and priests.
The synod will vote on a government restoration deal that involves the majority of the $104 million construction cost of restoration being funded by the Anglican's $42m insurance payout, a $10m government grant, a $15m government loan and a $15m funding pledge from the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT).
Wagner said she wanted to find a solution for the cathedral before the September vote.
"It is very hard to find a way forward, but we need to do something. The synod is nearly four months away. I will be working to see if we can get something before then," she said.
She was reluctant to use broad powers granted in the Christchurch Regeneration Act that can override planning rules and acquire land: "I would be very loath to do that."
"We need to come up with a solution that everyone can live with … I suspect there are all sorts of powers I could use, but I haven't investigated it."
GCBT co-chairman Philip Burdon said the Government had to immediately intervene and "take action".
"They have a number of options. The most appropriate action would be to pass enabling legislation giving the Government the right to enter and restore.
"That is the only way to resolve this now."
Christchurch Central Labour Party candidate Duncan Webb said the derelict building was a "weeping sore on the face of Christchurch".
"The Government seems to be holding on to the purse strings too tightly and it is not prepared to fund what is a Christchurch asset.
"Government needs to take control of it, accept that is expensive and fund it."
A spokeswoman for Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was "disappointed" about the delay.
"She is hoping to meet with the church to understand the decision as she hasn't received any communication from them for a while," the spokeswoman wrote in an email.
An Anglican diocese spokesman did not answer detailed questions about the synod vote and government intervention.