Anglicans left out of cathedral briefing

Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
Hamish Ogston

THE DONOR: British businessman and philanthropist Hamish Ogston talks to media about gifting money for the reconstruction of the Christ Church Cathedral. The copper model was made by prisoners.

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The Anglican church says a British multimillionaire's suggestion that it hand over Christ Church Cathedral for restoration is "completely bizarre".

UK businessman Hamish Ogston yesterday announced he would fund an independent survey to find out what residents wanted to see happen to the ill-fated Cathedral Square centrepiece. Shortly after the February 2011 earthquake Ogston pledged $4 million to kickstart the restoration of the building and said he wanted to reiterate his pledge.

"There should be a foundation set up which will take over the reconstruction of the cathedral, independent of the Anglican church, but with their co-operation," he said.

The media announcement took place at the Christchurch City Council building alongside former MPs and co-chairmen of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

Spokesman for the Anglican Diocese Jayson Rhodes told The Press Bishop Victoria Matthews was "astounded" when she heard about Ogston's proposal through the media. "There was no information, no invitation to the announcement - there was nothing," he said.

"It's just completely bizarre and we feel like the odd one out at kindergarten when everyone else has been invited to a party except us."

Rhodes said the Church Property Trustees had made a decision about the future of the cathedral after months of research, advice and public consultation.

"For somebody to come in from afar, make no contact with us and then fly out [of the country] tomorrow is just bizarre."

Rhodes said preliminary legal advice confirmed the Church Property Trustees must maintain ownership and control at all times.

Ogston said it would cost $67 million to fully restore the cathedral and bring it up to code. After insurance payments and donations there was only a $15 million shortfall.

"That's a small sum of money," he said.

He said the restoration should be headed by a "group of people who can ensure the cathedral is restored quickly and returned to the Anglican church on completion".

Ogston believed that if people knew the cathedral could be restored without any cost to the ratepayers they would want it to go ahead.

"I want to help the cathedral have a future rather than sitting in limbo . . . so let's take it out of the hands of the Anglicans and give it to the community, if they want it."

Dalziel said she liked the idea of "asking what people want for the heart of their city".

"If the people of Christchurch send a strong message, it will help the conversation."

Dalziel told The Press the council did not have a position on the cathedral but she was "personally keen to facilitate any move that could contribute to a resolution".

However, yesterday afternoon she said she was "sorry to learn the organisers had not arranged for Mr Ogston to meet the Bishop".

In September the church confirmed it had ruled out restoring thedamaged landmark in favour of a contemporary replacement.

A legal challenge from the GCBT to the Supreme Court was declined in December. Anderton told The Press the reason the church was not contacted before the announcement was because the GCBT anticipated the "usual response and blocks".

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