Cathedral deconstruction on hold, PM says

MARC GREENHILL AND ANNA TURNER
Last updated 12:44 11/07/2012
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Prime Minister John Key has confirmed the deconstruction of Christ Church Cathedral is on hold while the Anglican Church considers an independent report saying it can be saved.

Key said in Christchurch today that he had not yet seen the report as it had been forwarded to Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee's office.

He confirmed that the demolition of the cathedral had been halted while the church considered the report, which says "maximum retention" of the cathedral is feasible and can be achieved without any safety risks.

"I have had a discussion with [Brownlee] about it today,'' he said.

''My understanding is that there is a sort of temporary halt going on while the Anglican Church have an opportunity to talk to the interested parties." 

He believed it was important to have a cathedral in the Square, but it was not up to him what form it would take.

"My own view is that it's important that Christchurch has a cathedral,'' he said.

''That site was zoned for a cathedral; it's not called Cathedral Square for nothing.

''Ultimately, whether it's a new structure or a very substantial rebuild on the existing structure, well, that will be a matter for others to determine."

He stood by the Government's advice that the cathedral could not be made safe.

"The advice that the Government was given, and I haven't heard anything to contradict that at this point, was that the building needed to be demolished for safety reasons," Key said.

Demolition 'on hold'

Restoration campaigner Jim Anderton said Brownlee promised at a meeting six weeks ago that demolition work would be paused.

The Great Christchurch Building Trust, chaired by Anderton and another former MP, Philip Burdon, yesterday made public a report it claimed proved "maximum retention" was feasible and could be achieved without any safety risks.

Anderton said he had spoken to Brownlee about the cathedral "several times" since the meeting six weeks ago.

"[Brownlee] said, 'We won't take any action to second-guess that [report] by going through any further demolition until your report is finished, we have copies of it and time to consider it'," Anderton said.

"We've kept our part of the bargain and as far as we're concerned, the minister's kept his. There hasn't been any further demolition."

Brownlee was unavailable for comment as he is overseas. A spokesman for Brownlee said the issue was for the Anglican Church and the trust to discuss.

"Cera [Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority] will give both parties a proper opportunity to have those discussions," he said.

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Cathedral acting dean Lynda Patterson said the demolition plans were still "parked" with Cera.

"They'll consider it when they get round to considering it."

She said Anderton's plan had not been discounted.

"We've have yet to meet as a cathedral project team to discuss any of the implications. If we can learn anything new from that, we will," she said.

"Because I don't speak for all members of the group, I honestly can't tell you what the end result will be."

Cera said yesterday that the church's plans for the second phase of demolition were "still under consideration", but no time frame was given.

Brownlee had previously stated decision-making rested with church officials.

He told The Press in May he had not "gone around taking buildings off other people" and was "not about to do that with the Anglican Church".

"The Anglican Church have behaved responsibly here. They are going about this in a very considered and methodical manner, and they should be allowed to continue to do that," Brownlee said.

Bishop Victoria Mathews told TV3 last week that the delay was a "huge concern".

The church was desperate to retrieve artefacts, such as the pipe organ and memorial plaques.

She ruled out restoring the cathedral. "I think at this time to spend between $100million and $120m to rebuild what was there is an inappropriate use of money."

$50m in fundraising 'doable'

Christ Church Cathedral could be saved with more than $50 million in private funding, restoration campaigners say.

Former MP Jim Anderton, co-chairman of the Great Christchurch Building Trust, said yesterday that international donors would support plans to stabilise and rebuild the earthquake-damaged landmark.

Countries that lost citizens in the quake would probably contribute if a memorial was included, he said.

"We're not spooked by a figure of, say, $50m. That seems doable to us,'' he said.

"The people I've spoken to believe we can manage that."

He accepted that the cost of restoration was an issue, with estimates ranging from $100m to $300m.

"If it's cost, if that's the bottom line, tell us what it is,'' he said.

''I'm all for that and there is a cost that will be a bridge too far. How do you know what the cost is until you're told?"

New Zealand Historic Places Trust southern region acting general manager Ann Neill said "significant fundraising" would be an essential part of any proposal.

"There is a level of international interest in such a significant heritage building to generate funds. As our chair, Shonagh Kenderdine, said in April, 'Time needs to be taken to find the necessary money'," Neill said.

Acting dean Lynda Patterson said Anderton's plan took the cathedral project team's own engineering advice "a bit further", but still provided only brief details.

"We're looking at this from the inside out. They're looking from the outside in," she said. "We need to have some conversations to see if there's any common ground there."

The church's quantity surveyor Davis Langdon estimated "maximum retention" would cost more than $100m.

- The Press

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