Cathedral wars heating up

23:48, Aug 21 2014
christ church cathedral
STRAIGHT-BACKED: Christ Church Cathedral from above in a photo taken for the Great Christchurch Building Trust, which is campaigning to save the building.

A group opposing the Christ Church Cathedral demolition has launched a public relations offensive to convince Kiwis the landmark is not ruined.

The six-week campaign by the Great Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT) includes extensive billboard and media advertising, featuring photographs of the cathedral taken from a helicopter.

GCBT co-chairman Jim Anderton said the photographs showed the cathedral in a different light - far from the ruin that many perceived it to be.

TUMBLEDOWN FACE: A photo taken of the cathedral yesterday shows damage and neglect.

The trust had engaged focus groups and discovered many people believed the building was beyond repair when the reality was far different, he said.

"The hope is that we will be able to change opinion in the city from ‘it's a ruin' to finding a way forward to repair it that would not cost the ratepayer anything."

Auckland-based public relations consultant Fleur Revell, of Impact PR, told The Press the campaign would bring the debate to life again but her advice would have been to "spell out the compelling reasons why the cathedral needs to stay in a more convincing way".


"The key messages on why it needs to stay need to be stated more clearly; instead there are simply a series of opinion pieces and supporting documents for the public to click on and read. This puts the onus back on the public to essentially do the research themselves," she said.

Geoff Cranko, of Strategy Design and Advertising, said public relations campaigns could be extremely effective in changing public opinion and influencing decision-makers.

"Why are the political parties frantically advertising? Because it obviously [has] an effect. We're all influenced by the media that we see," he said.

The Anglican diocese has estimated the restoration would cost between $104 million and $221m, while the GCBT put the figure at about $67m.

The diocese was court-ordered to return $4m in insurance it received for the damaged cathedral, some of which has been used to build the Transitional Cathedral.

Anderton said if the church paid that money back and added it to the money the trust had already raised, it left about $15m to raise. "The trust would raise that money ourselves."

Trust co-chairman Philip Burdon said he wanted to avoid generations of litigation with the diocese and was hoping the diocese and church trustees would not want to "fly in the face" of public opinion.

In March 2012, the Church Property Trustees (CPT) resolved to deconstruct the cathedral down to a level of two to three metres.

The High Court halted the planned demolition after the GCBT sought a binding ruling on whether the Anglican diocese's plans breached an act of Parliament protecting church buildings.

Justice Lester Chisholm ordered a stay on deconstruction until the CPT committed to build a cathedral, of any design.

The Court of Appeal overturned the decision and in December, the Supreme Court declined a GCBT appeal. The stay of demolition remained.

In September last year, the CPT decided to deconstruct the cathedral and build a new cathedral with a contemporary design. Under that condition, the CPT requested the High Court lift the stay - which Justice Graham Panckhurst granted.

The diocese did not respond to requests for comment.


The next step for the Christ Church Cathedral remains unclear. The Christchurch City Council community committee held off making a grant for a church heritage building until it knows how the Church Property Trustees (CPT) plan to deal with others, including the cathedral. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority issued a Section 38 notice to the cathedral. Building owners can ask the Government for a demolition order without public consultation. CPT lawyer Jeremy Johnson said in May the trustees would need consents through the New Zealand Historic Places Trust before demolition. 

The Press