Partial Christ Church Cathedral demolition

Last updated 11:58 28/10/2011
Daniel Tobin

Dean Peter Beck and Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews disscuss interim plans for Christ Church Cathedral.

Dean Peter Beck and Bishop Victoria Matthews
"ALL'S NOT WELL": Dean Peter Beck and Bishop Victoria Matthews clashed over the Christ Church Cathedral's fate.
INTERIM MEASURE: The Christ Church Cathedral will be deconsecrated, partially demolished and the remains made safe, before a long-term plan is developed.
Christ Church Cathedral
RUINS: Christ Church Cathedral will cost $4m to make safe.

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The Christ Church Cathedral will be deconsecrated, parts of it demolished and the remains made safe, it has been announced.

Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews said the interim measure involved controlled demolition and temporary measures to make the cathedral safe until a final decision was made.

The move would allow the recovery of artefacts and heritage items from the badly quake-damaged building.

But the much-loved cathedral would never look "exactly as it used to" and whether it would be rebuilt on its current site was not yet known.

It is expected to cost $4 million to make the building safe, although engineers have advised of a $30m funding shortfall for any future options for the cathedral.

"This has been a difficult decision for all involved as no-one loves the cathedral as much as we do," Matthews said.

"However, this is the next step towards a decision about the future of the cathedral, which will combine the old and the new.''

She said it was "critically important'' that the right decision was made on the cathedral's short and long-term location.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) board has welcomed the announcement, said trust chief executive Bruce Chapman.

"While there is much work to be done and some uncertainty remains, today's decision will be welcome news for everyone who has lived in Christchurch, worshipped in or visited the cathedral.

"It is an iconic heritage landmark regionally, nationally and internationally - reflected in its current Category I registration with the NZHPT."

Work on the cathedral is set to start in the next three months. It has not yet gone out to tender.

The cathedral will be deconsecrated at a restricted service on November 9, returning it to secular use.


A structural engineer involved in the project said cathedral leaders had considered three engineering options for the building.

Two of the proposed options involve taking down large parts of the cathedral, including one option that would see the removal of everything except the eastern end of the building beyond the transept.

Miyamoto International structural engineer Michael King said the third option would involve retention of most of the cathedral and was included at his suggestion.

King was commissioned by the Christchurch City Council to review the work by cathedral engineers Holmes and present an alternative solution.

King said the cathedral should be retained as an icon of the city and an international fundraising effort could cover the cost.

The options proposed by Holmes were "a little too conservative".

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"It can be repaired and strengthened. It can be done," he said.

"A building like that needs to be retained for reasons well beyond church. It is the centre of the city and the centre of life and what people see in Cathedral Square.

"I cannot imagine that building not being there. It would be a crying shame," he said.

"I know money is always something you have to consider, but there are a lot of people all over the world that can help."

King has been a structural engineer for 25 years and has worked on earthquake-damaged historic buildings in California.

His alternative solution involves retaining most of the cathedral, installing shock absorbers beneath the building and strengthening the walls with vertical steel rods.


A statement released by Matthews on Wednesday said the process for deciding the future of the cathedral was "challenging and complex".

"A final decision won't be made until all of the information and reports are received by the various church entities and the options and ramifications are considered," the statement said.

Former Christchurch mayor Garry Moore has joined calls for cathedral leaders to be more open about the building's future.

"A small number of people are making a big number of decisions that we all need to participate in," he said.

"We need to have this debate in public. The church is an institution and, as a member of our society, they need to be open as well.

"I think for buildings like the old post office and the cathedral ... discussions need to be held out in the public. They are part of the heritage fabric of this city."

- The Press


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