No hurry to level cathedral

MARC GREENHILL AND LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 27/07/2013

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Demolition experts will not be closing in on the earthquake-damaged Christ Church Cathedral any time soon, despite a court giving the green light to take it down.

The Court of Appeal yesterday dealt those fighting for the landmark's restoration a hefty blow when it dismissed an appeal against a High Court decision allowing the Anglican Church to deconstruct.

Bishop Victoria Matthews welcomed the "crystal clear" decision about the church's rights, but said it could be several months before the cathedral's fate was known.

"You don't get to build a cathedral every day, so we'll take our time," she said.

Restoration campaigners have vowed to continue fighting, while Mayor Bob Parker called for a "swift" resolution.
Matthews told The Press the church had "ticked all the boxes", and the three cathedral options released for public consultation in April were back on the table.

Those included restoration, a reinterpretation of the neo-Gothic cathedral in modern materials, and a completely new building.

Each option required a "degree of deconstruction", she said.

"We have not made a decision about the future of the cathedral but we'll pick up that conversation now and see where it leads us.

"People say, 'How long will that take?' I say, 'I don't know'. It's not going to take forever, but it's not going to take a couple of days, either."

The building is subject to a Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority-issued Section 45 notice, which prevents access within the barricades.

More than $300,000 of church funds is being spent on protective hoardings for the north and south sides to allow the removal of the shipping containers.

The year-long legal battle has raged since the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, co-chaired by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, sought a declaratory judgment in the High Court about whether the diocese's deconstruction plans breached an act of Parliament protecting church buildings.

Anderton said the trust would take the next couple of weeks to consider whether there were any other avenues it could pursue in its attempt to save the cathedral, but time and money were running out.

"I don't like leaving a job undone and neither do the colleagues I have around me ... but there will be a point where we have to say enough is enough. Whether we've reached that [point] is yet to be determined," he said.

The decision was very disappointing but if the trust had not taken action the cathedral would not still be standing, Anderton said.

Burdon said he hoped an out-of-court settlement could now be reached, otherwise the city faced "years of litigation".

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