Mayor urges Government to buy and restore Christ Church Cathedral if deal falls through

The derelict Christ Church Cathedral is full of pigeons and rats.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

The derelict Christ Church Cathedral is full of pigeons and rats.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel wants the Government to buy and repair the Christ Church Cathedral if the Anglicans reject a restoration deal.

Dalziel stated her position on the quake-damaged Christ Church Cathedral on Wednesday, shortly before Labour, Green and National MPs united to break a deadlock over the building.

Labour and Green MPs said Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner had agreed to set up a cross-party initiative to tackle the cathedral. Wagner said she had invited all Christchurch MPs to meet on Friday to "discuss the Government's next steps" on the cathedral.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said if Anglicans rejected the offer and chose demolition it would be bad for ...
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said if Anglicans rejected the offer and chose demolition it would be bad for regeneration of the city.

Dalziel fears there could be 10 years of legal action and delay if Anglicans reject a government offer to help fund restoration of the cathedral and choose demolition instead.

READ MORE:
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* Bishop Victoria Matthews: Delay for decision no excessive
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Anglicans lobbied council for streamlined Christ Church Cathedral demolition planning rules
Campaigner: Cathedral talks are 'sham'
Cathedral Trustees: We have negotiated in good faith
$25m to break cathedral stalemate​​

She said it was her personal view that the Government may have to purchase the building using its earthquake recovery powers.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner says she wants to find a solution for the cathedral before the ...
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner says she wants to find a solution for the cathedral before the diocese's September vote.

"But it would be a last resort. It is an absolute last resort," she said.

Bishop Victoria Matthews announced on Sunday that the synod will vote in September on whether to accept the government restoration deal. The deal involves the majority of the $104 million construction cost of restoration being funded by the Anglican's $42m insurance payout, a $10m government grant, a $15m government loan and a $15m funding pledge from the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT).

Dalziel said if Anglicans rejected the offer and chose demolition it would be bad for regeneration of the city.

Bishop Victoria Matthews blamed delays on Gerry Brownlee's foreign trips.
CARYS MONTEATH/FAIRFAX NZ

Bishop Victoria Matthews blamed delays on Gerry Brownlee's foreign trips.

"It's a category one heritage building and so, regardless, somebody will challenge demolition," she said.

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"Some people tell me that it may take 10 years to go through the court processes. The real advantage to the city of accepting the offer is that we can now get on with the regeneration of Cathedral Square and all of the surrounding areas and people looking to build in those spaces will know exactly what they are building next to."

Speaking before the cross-party initiative was announced, Wagner said she was working to reach a consensus with Anglicans in order to avoid court. She would not comment on the possibility of using her special recovery powers.

"I don't think we have got to that stage yet," she said.

"We need a decision soon. It has to be a decision that doesn't mean we end up in court for five or 10 years."

Wagner has special powers under the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act. She can compulsorily acquire land, commission certain building works, approve regeneration plans and override planning rules. The powers in the act are effective until June 2021.

Labour's Canterbury Issues spokesperson Megan Woods said the cross-party initiative was needed to break the deadlock.

"This is a ridiculous situation that we are in. We are more than six years on and there needs to be resolution. It is time for leadership," she said.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said government intervention on the cathedral could be needed to help the city centre regenerate.

"The perception now is that we are running out of options and something needs to be done. It would be preferable to see a consensus in the community, but that is not appearing likely."

Matthews declined multiple requests for an interview this week. A spokesman declined to comment on Dalziel's comments.

Matthews has not sat down with a Press journalist for an interview since 2013.

BROWNLEE 'ANNOYED' BY BISHOP'S 'EXTRAORDINARY' COMMENTS

Former earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee said he was "pretty annoyed" by Bishop Victoria Matthews' claims that his foreign trips had delayed a cathedral decision.

Matthews has claimed in an opinion piece that a government funding offer to help restore the cathedral "morphed into a series of delays while [Brownlee] was unavoidably out of the country as minister of defence. These delays were not caused by the church."

But Brownlee soundly rejected the claim.

"I'm pretty annoyed," he said.

"At no point was my availability an issue for the Church Property Trustee's decision making. It is extraordinary that she is saying that. It is quite irritating."

"I made the offer in mid December and I wasn't out of the country until March when I went to Iraq for a week."

Matthews was out of the country for about two months from the end of September on holiday and study leave.

She wrote in a newsletter in September that she would use the trip to read about "the theology of memory and the fourth century writings of St Augustine of Hippo".

In the opinion piece, Matthews asks if "the hurting city of Christchurch will be better helped by fixing this broken building or by attending to the pain of the people who are still suffering".

"To give but one example, I am aware that there are rising numbers of people of all ages suffering from mental illness across Canterbury," she wrote.

"Christchurch, please think of the housing needs of the eastern suburbs and the domestic violence in many households."

 - Stuff

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