Mayor supports Cathedral peace talks

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 14:20 10/01/2014
Christ Church Cathedral
Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ

PEACE MAKER: The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has offered to act as "honest broker" between the Anglican diocese and Christ Church Cathedral restoration advocates to reach a compromise over the rebuild.

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Mayor Lianne Dalziel says she supports the idea of peace talks over the Christ Church Cathedral rebuild wrangle, saying even a compromise is better than a ruling from a judge.  

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) has offered to act as an intermediary between the Anglican Diocese and groups wanting the earthquake damaged cathedral restored to find a "compromise solution".

NZHPT has been in talks with the parties, but nothing has been arranged.

NZHPT Southern general manager Rob Hall said a compromise would save at least part of the landmark, while ensuring the rebuild met the needs of the modern church.

Dalziel said she was "delighted" to learn of the NZHPT's offer and hoped it would be accepted.

"Finding a solution together, even if it involves compromise, is always better than a ruling from a judge," she said. 

Dalziel said the High Court proceedings over the cathedral's demolition were not just about private interests. 

"They are about the public interest in doing what we can to retain an important part of our city's heritage," she said. 

Dalziel said such discussions should be "inclusive and respectful".

"Unfortunately that hasn't always been the case."

The church has opted for a modern cathedral design after consulting on three options, including restoration. Bishop Victoria Matthews said last month she was committed to having a new cathedral in the Square within 10 years.

Hall said if the parties could agree to a partial retention, the city could be left with a "leading example of recovery, rather than a very public example of disagreement".

Such a compromise could also prevent further legal battles when the church applied for an NZHPT archaeological authority to deconstruct and a Christchurch City Council resource consent.

Hall said there were many examples of partial retentions of historic buildings in Europe, an option that appeared not to have been fully explored here.

Norwich Cathedral had a modern restaurant built on to it. Coventry Cathedral was restored with some of the original structure left in ruin. And St Edmundsbury Cathedral had modern additions built in a sympathetic style.

"I'm suggesting there's a whole lot of middle ground there if you can get them back together, talking along some common themes," Hall said.

"People are spending money on lawyers. It would be better spent on fresh thinking."

The NZHPT would be willing to obtain independent engineering advice and even consider managing the entire project, Hall said.

Anglican Diocese of Christchurch chief operations officer Gavin Holley said the Church Property Trustees appreciated NZHPT's offer to be an "honest broker" between the parties.

The offer had not been taken up "for various reasons", but "anything can change in the future", he said.

The trustees were focused on High Court proceedings with the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) over an interim ruling to stop the demolition, Holley said.

GCBT co-chairman Jim Anderton said the trust had always been willing to get around the table "with experts on all sides" if the church changed its view on having the entire cathedral demolished.

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The trust sought only the maximum retention possible, not to have the cathedral restored "stone by stone", he said.

Anything less was "not compromise, that's just stupid".

Restore Christ Church Cathedral spokesman Mark Belton said there was room for flexibility on all sides, "providing the compromise doesn't compromise the beauty and glory of the building and its historic nature".

The Restore Christchurch Cathedral group has threatened NZHPT with High Court action were it to grant archaeological authority to demolish the cathedral, based on legal opinion from top Auckland lawyer Mai Chen.

Hall said the cathedral could never be reinstated exactly to its original state, as even restoration would require new building methods and strengthening work. 

Matthews is overseas and could not provide comment.

- The Press

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