Councillors ask for cathedral demolition halt

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 15:08 17/05/2012
Aaron Keown
DEAN KOZANIC

SIGNED UP: Christchurch City councillor Aaron Keown listens to a submission at today's council meeting.

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The Christchurch City Council has asked for an "immediate pause" in the demolition of Christ Church Cathedral in a move hailed by campaigners.

After a lengthy debate, councillors voted 10-4 to call for a halt to demolition while "deeper and more open consideration" of restoration plans took place.

Councillors passionately argued for each side of the issue during the discussions, with occasional flashes of anger.

Cr Helen Broughton, who asked councillors to call for the pause, said the Anglican diocese needed to try every possible option to determine whether the heritage building could be saved.

"It holds an important place in the hearts and psyches of Christchurch residents, and restoration appears possible," she said.

Cr Claudia Reid said the council could not tell Anglican leaders what to do but had a duty to speak out on behalf of the city's residents.

"There is a passion for a deeper conversation about the cathedral,'' she said.

''It is a very potent symbol of who we are and what we are."

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button, who was among those who opposed a halt in demolition, said the decision had been taken out of the diocese's hands by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).

"Cera said the cathedral was damaged and needed to be deconstructed or demolished. Whatever term you use, it needs to be taken down,'' she said.

"The church didn't make the decision to take it down; Cera decided to take it down."

The council will write to Bishop Victoria Matthews, the Anglican diocese, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Cera advising them of its decision.

The Restore Christ Church Cathedral group, which urged councillors to endorse a pause, has already lauded the decision in a media release saying: "We won!"

CHRISTCHURCH 'JUDGED SEVERELY'

Christchurch will be judged "very, very severely" if Christ Church Cathedral is demolished, city councillors were told earlier today.

This morning councillors were asked to "show their hand" and call for a halt to the demolition of the cathedral.

Restore Christ Church Cathedral spokesman Mark Belton said experts from all over the world had shown that proposals for restoration were "imminently doable".

The Anglican Church had abandoned its responsibility of care for the building, and councillors needed to take a stronger stance on the issue for the good of the city, he said.

"Stand up and demonstrate to the people of Christchurch where you individually stand on this issue."

Belton asked councillors to pass a vote asking for a pause in the demolition process so "open and deep" public consultation could take place.

Council support would "strengthen the hand" of the wider community and place more pressure on the Government to intervene, he said.

"History is going to judge us very, very severely if we do not rise to this challenge."

At the end of his presentation, Belton played a piece of music composed in support of the cathedral, titled Christ Church Cathedral: Song of Hope.

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Earlier, Belton said the group was ''not too pleased'' about the low profile that most councillors had taken on the cathedral.

''As our elected custodians and representatives, they have been not nearly strong enough about protecting our heritage in a post-quake environment,'' he said.

Yesterday, The Press revealed that Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had dismissed a last-gasp plea from cathedral campaigners calling for government intervention.

Brownlee said the Anglican Church had ''behaved responsibly'', and the Government would not step in.

''We haven't gone around taking buildings off other people and we are not about to do that with the Anglican Church ... They are going about this in a very considered and methodical manner, and they should be allowed to continue to do that,'' he said.

In a separate campaign, the Wizard plans on deconstructing the "seriously cracked" Anglican Bishop in favour of a cardboard figurine in a rally this weekend.

In an advertisement in The Press today, the Wizard of New Zealand, Ian Brackenbury Channell, says Bishop Victoria Matthews "will be deconstructed" at a rally outside the Canterbury Museum at noon on Sunday.

"I have examined the Bishop's foundations and have discovered that they are built on sand. She is in a very dangerous state, being seriously cracked, and I can see no evidence that she can be made safe."

He said Matthews had showed how much she "hates and despises" the people of Christchurch.

He calls her "as dull and bland as her beloved Cardboard Cathedral", but refers to himself as having "attractive Gothic features".

The deconstruction would be carefully done in order to rescue the real treasure.

"This treasure is the loving and honest faith of our Anglican ancestors."

The Wizard also promises the demolition of members of the Anglican chapter who are still backing Matthews.

- The Press

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