Heritage trust may enter cathedral fight

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2012

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New Zealand's heritage watchdog is considering an attempt to stop demolition of Christ Church Cathedral.

However, the Government has warned it may knock the building down if it does.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust is considering using its powers to intervene in the cathedral row, files made public to The Press under the Official Information Act show.

Anglican leaders cannot demolish the cathedral unless the trust approves an archaeological authority for the work.

Internal notes from a meeting on October 19 show the trust is considering not granting the authority.

The notes say granting the authority and allowing demolition could damage the trust's reputation because it would be seen as the organisation that condemned the cathedral.

The notes also warn that stopping demolition would mean the Government would upset the Anglican church and it could be seen as excessive use of its powers.

However, meeting notes made public by the trust show that the Government could demolish the building regardless of the decision.

The minutes from a meeting between trust southern general manager Rob Hall and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority operations deputy general manager Baden Ewart say: "Baden advised that if we were to decline the authority and the church trust was unable to make safe the site, he felt CCDU [the Christchurch Central Development Unit] under the CER Act would be required to deconstruct the cathedral. And, that it would be lawful to do so."

Hall told The Press no decision had been made about the archaeological authority and the church had not yet submitted an application.

"We have not made any predetermined decision one way or the other," he said.

Trust staff are considering the matter because they will have just two working days to respond once an application is submitted by the church.

The trust expects the archaeological authority will be submitted if the church wins a legal challenge opposing the demolition.

The trust has processed about 900 archaeological authorities since the earthquakes but has not refused any.

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- The Press

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