Cathedral deconstruction OK, court rules

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 11:05 26/07/2013
Cathedral
DEAN KOZANIC/ Fairfax

DIFFERENT LOOK: Grass grows on the once bustling paved Square of Christchurch with its centrepiece, Christ Church Cathedral, left open to the elements by its crumbled face.

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A legal battle to stop Christ Church Cathedral being demolished has been lost.

In a decision released today, the Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision clearing the way for the Church Property Trustees (CPT) to continue demolishing the earthquake-damaged cathedral.

The decision is a blow to those campaigning to save the cathedral and who have been pinning their hopes on a favourable outcome through the courts.

CPT resolved in March last year to partly deconstruct the cathedal to bring it down to a safe level, but the lawfulness of its decision was challenged by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT).

It sought through the High Court a declaration that the decision to deconstruct the cathedral was a breach of the trusts on which CPT holds, and asked the court to set aside that decision.

The High Court found that CPT was entitled to deconstruct the damaged cathedral, provided the deconstruction was undertaken for the purpose of constructing a new cathedral on the same site.

The High Court made a declaration that while the cathedral trust required there to be a cathedral on the site, the building did not necessarily have to replicate the cathedral as it stood before the quakes.

Unhappy with that ruling, the GCBT challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal, but the court has unanimously upheld the High Court's decision and rejected all three of the arguments put forward by GCBT's lawyers.

The Court of Appeal's decision means CPT can now push ahead with the deconstruction of the cathedral and begin planning a replacement.

The feeling among Cantabrians and visitors in Cathedral Square today was that the end of the city landmark was inevitable.

While there was sadness about its possible loss, none of the people spoken to by The Press were against it.

Halswell company owner Mark Hutching said it was a ''great shame'', but it had to happen.

''The process has been quite convoluted and I think disrespectful to the church. It is an icon though, and it's a real shame that it has to come down,'' he said.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the Court of Appeal's decision was a ''tragedy'' for the cathedral and ''cultural continuity in Canterbury''.

"Christ Church Cathedral is an anchor for the community,'' he said.

''It has something that hundreds of thousands of Cantabrians have grown up with and looked to as one of their community's defining features.''

Peters urged people not to abandon the restoration cause despite the legal setback.

"There is significant insurance money that has been paid to the Church Property Trustees,'' he said.

''What is needed is an aggressive local and central government-supported fundraising programme to address the funding deficit of the cathedral's restoration and in so doing show a real commitment to the restoration of Christchurch as well."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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