Cathedral millions offer not accepted

Nearly $7m in funding declined

MARC GREENHILL AND SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2013
cath.std
Christ Church Cathedral

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Cashed-up Christ Church Cathedral supporters want to shell out millions of dollars to save the quake-damaged landmark, but their offer has not been accepted*.

The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, co-chaired by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, has offered to provide the $6.7 million it says is required to stabilise the cathedral. The restoration campaign group would also assist with further fundraising if saving the building was guaranteed.

But the offer has not been accepted.

"Right from the start the church has set its mind against restoring the cathedral. That's what we're up against," Anderton said.

"It's a bit like raising money for a gymnasium at the local school and the principal fighting it. I've never tried to help someone who is so reluctant to accept help."

The central-city building's fate hangs on a Court of Appeal decision on whether it must be restored or decision-making power reverts to its owner, the Church Property Trust (CPT), which is mulling three options, two of which are rebuilds, for the site.

Anglican diocese spokesman Jayson Rhodes declined to comment, but confirmed the trust's funding offer had been received.

He told The Press last month it was "essential" to consider inflation and escalation in restoration costs.

"It would be ill-advised to not include those figures for a project lasting a number of years. No scheme is ready to start tomorrow," he said.

Anderton confirmed the offer was not accepted. "They have to decide that they are going to restore the cathedral first.

"We've got the money but we can't say to people, ‘we're going to make it safe, but then [the CPT] might pull it down'," he said.

The trust claims the cathedral could be restored for about $67m, compared with Anglican estimates the job would cost between $104m and $221m.

"They've got a problem because they've spent some of the insurance money on the cardboard cathedral," Anderton said.

"How much they've got left is a moot point."

He was expecting the appeal court decision by mid-June. "It's certainly overdue; it could be any time. Neither side is in a position to be definitive until that's released."

Burdon has committed $1m of his own money to the project and another confirmed donation was "much higher than that".

"We've got the money, all right," Anderton said, but some of those funds are contingent on the CPT's decision.

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"They won't put this up unless it's contributing to a restoration."

Bishop Victoria Matthews has previously said the diocese would not take on debt to fund the project. A requirement for full funding in advance of a rebuild was "idiotic", Anderton said.

* The original version of this story said the offer of financial help had been "rebuffed" by the Cathedral. This is not correct. The Church Property Trustees said that no decision to decline the offer had been made. They received the offer at the end of May and replied with a letter that left the matter open for further consideration, with the possibility of a meeting of the two parties. The trustees decided they could not progress their decision-making until the outcome of the Appeal Court hearing is known on whether the Cathedral must be restored.

- The Press

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