New church on cathedral site likely
The demolition of Christ Church Cathedral has been put on hold, but a new church on the site looks likely.
An application for a judicial review was granted by the High Court in Christchurch yesterday, meaning the earthquake-damaged building has been granted a stay of execution.
In granting the review, Justice Chisholm ruled the Church Property Trust (CPT), the church's owner:
- Must formally commit to rebuilding a cathedral in the Square.
- Was not required to replicate the cathedral as it stood pre-quake.
The judge also said: "Given the site-specific purpose of the Cathedral trust, it is difficult to see how any insurance proceeds arising from the insurance over the Cathedral could be used off-site."*
Justice Chisholm did not set any time frame but ruled he wanted the review to take place "as soon as possible".
Both parties in the legal challenge brought by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust against the building owner claimed victory.
The buildings trust, co-chaired by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, argued the Anglican Church's deconstruction plans breached an act of Parliament protecting church buildings and that the church trustees were obliged to repair it.
Justice Chisholm ruled that "while the cathedral trust requires there to be a cathedral on the Cathedral Square site, the building does not necessarily have to replicate the cathedral as it stood before the earthquakes".
In his judgment, he said a decision to "deconstruct would defeat the central purpose of the trust".
Because the church had indicated it wanted to rebuild on the site, its decision in early March to largely demolish the building was "incomplete" but not unlawful.
He said there was a "compelling case" for the court to intervene and that the CPT should have an opportunity to "reconsider and complete" its plans.
"Once the final CPT decision is available, the court will be in a position to complete its determination."
The cathedral's future was "legitimately in the public arena and is plainly a matter of intense public interest", the judge said.
Bishop Victoria Matthews said the CPT was pleased the court had backed the decision to replace the damaged cathedral with a new building.
The CPT would formally commit to building a new cathedral in the Square and design work had begun, she said.
"As we have said since March, the new design will be a mixture of old and new and it will be beautiful," Matthews said.
Burdon said the CPT was now required to take account of the various "engineering, legal and financial issues" identified during the court hearing.
The cathedral was never likely to be fully restored to its original form, he said.
"The judge has certainly not said that they can go and tear it down in any shape or form,'' he said.
"The judge has required them to go back and review, responsibly and substantially, all the evidence.
"I think they're being brave if they think this is a victory. God knows what they would describe as a defeat."
* This story has been changed because the judge's decision on insurance money being used off-site was not adequately explained in the original.