Christ Church Cathedral pro-restoration trust launches ad campaign as PR battle warms up
A trust lobbying for the restoration of the Christ Church Cathedral is bankrolling a pricey advertising campaign depicting central city workers, business owners and developers echoing its stance.
Both the city's Anglican diocese and the Great Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT) have ramped up their public relations strategies as tensions grow over ongoing delays in deciding on the building's future.
The church, which wants to demolish the cathedral and build anew, has engaged the services of prominent city firm Convergence PR. The company disseminated Bishop Victoria Matthews announcement on Sunday that members of the church synod would vote on the cathedral's fate in September.
GCBT has been campaigning for the cathedral to be restored and is party to a government restoration offer. The offer includes a $15 million funding pledge from the trust, which is also behind numerous legal actions to stop the building demolition.
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GCBT co-chairman Jim Anderton on Monday said the trust paid for the advertisements supporting cathedral restoration.
"It's the GCBT. It's our campaign."
The advertisements, which do not reveal the advertiser, show central city businesspeople, including ANZ Centre developer and owner Tim Glasson and developer Ernest Duval, supporting restoration.
Anderton would not reveal the cost of the campaign, but said it was "hundreds of thousands of dollars that could've been spent on the cathedral".
The trust, he said, did not want anyone to think it was "manipulating the situation".
"We didn't want them (the people in the advertisements) to feel that they were running for us … they were working and representing the community at large.
"We deliberately have not associated the campaign with the trust itself, it's really on behalf of the whole city."
Anderton said those fronting the campaign were "absolutely aware" of what it was they would feature in.
However, Caffeine Laboratory employee David Chen, who appears in one of the restoration advertisements, said it did not reflect his opinion on the cathedral's future.
"We were just told it was for the rebuild [of Christchurch] and they needed pictures of people and they'd plug Caffeine Laboratory," he said.
"I thought it was funny, although I'm not for the rebuild of the cathedral.
"It would be cool to see it rebuilt, but there's many other things that the money could go towards."
Anderton did not respond to a further request for comment on Monday afternoon.
When approached on Monday, others featuring in the campaign said they were fully aware of what was being advertised.
Meanwhile, the diocese has put in place a public relations strategy of its own, with church property trustee Steve Wakefield on Monday referring questions about the cathedral to Convergence.
The trustees had been considering the government offer to help with restoration, but on Sunday they lost their decision-making power.
The deal being considered involves the majority of the $104m construction cost of restoration being funded by the Anglican's $42m insurance payout, a $10m government grant, a $15m government loan and GCBT's $15m pledge.