Cathedral insurance 'belongs to parish'

DAMAGED: The Christ Church Cathedral.
DAMAGED: The Christ Church Cathedral.

Insurance money from the Christ Church Cathedral can be used to build the $5.3 million cardboard cathedral, Anglican lawyers argued this morning.

Anglican leaders have asked Justice Graham Panckhurst for direction on whether cathedral insurance money can be used for the transitional cathedral being built in Latimer Square.

Justice Chisholm said in an interim ruling last year that the cathedral's insurance money should be used only for a project on the Cathedral Square.

"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," he wrote in an interim ruling.

Construction of the $5.3m cardboard cathedral, a temporary replacement, is being partly funded with $4m of insurance money from Christ Church Cathedral.

Anglican leaders are pushing ahead with the cardboard cathedral, despite funding for the project being questioned by a High Court judge.

Anglican church lawyer Jared Ormsby told the court this morning that the insurance premiums for the cathedral were paid by the parish, rather than the Church Property Trust. The owner of the insurance policy was also referred to as the parish, also known as the chapter, in Anglican documents.

"This case centres around two fundamental questions. The first question is are the insurance proceeds held by the Church Property Trust only for the benefit of the cathedral trust or also for the benefit of the cathedral parish?

"The second question is what is a cathedral? Is it only a building or does it include wide spiritual elements and dimensions at the core of the cathedral?

"Is it acceptable to spend funds to ensure there continues to be a building with all the spiritual dimensions,'' he said.

"The funds are held not only for the business of the cathedral, but for the purposes of the cathedral parish.''

Ormsby said there were two items of property. The cathedral land and buildings, which are held by the trust, and the insurance proceeds, which he argued could be claimed by the parish.

"There is little doubt that prior to this dispute the cathedral parish considered it had an interest in the insurance payments. It can have an affect on who owns or who is entitled to a beneficial interest in the insurance proceeds.

"That was the basis on which the insurance policy was taken out and chapter paid for it using its monies."

He said the trust had made decisions to continue funding the cardboard cathedral, but would abide by the court's decision.

"The situation is a complex one and the trustees have had to make somevery difficult decisions. They have had to make decisions, but they recognise the court is the ultimate arbiter."

Orsmby also read from a letter from parish leaders to the Church Property Trust after the Chisholm ruling. It raised concerns over the insurance money.

"The chapter did not fund the premiums on the insurance policy for such a restricted outcome,'' the letter stated.

"The chapter considers itself the beneficiary of the insurance policy. There is concern that the Church Property Trust will not support the transitional cathedral.''

Lawyers for the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, which is campaigning to save the Christ Church Cathedral, are expected to present their case this afternoon.

The Press