Modern replacement for cathedral

Last updated 05:00 10/09/2013
Christ Church Cathedral
IN FAVOUR: This contemporary design was one of three options put forward for the quake-damaged Christ Church Cathedral.
Christ Church Cathedral
LOOKING IN: The interior of the contemporary design.
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Court action is now the only barrier to the construction of a modern Christ Church Cathedral.

The Anglican Diocese yesterday confirmed it had ruled out restoring the earthquake-damaged landmark in favour of a contemporary replacement.

Three options - restoration, a reinterpretation of the neo-Gothic cathedral in modern materials and a new design - were released for public consultation in April.

Bishop Victoria Matthews told The Press option three - the modern Warren and Mahoney concept drawing - could be altered or completely redesigned.

Safety and cost were key considerations, but the trust was "not immune to new ideas".

"But it's a contemporary cathedral - that we can say without question," she said.

The building's fate could hinge on a Supreme Court challenge filed by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), co-chaired by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon.

The original High Court decision required the trust to commit to rebuilding a cathedral in Cathedral Square and to determine how it would use the space, Matthews said.

"We've now answered that."

She believed the church had been "scrupulously fair" to restoration campaigners but still expected "every imaginable roadblock" to try to prevent construction of the new design.

"We just need to be patient, polite and civil as we deal with people's anxieties, as well as their excitement," Matthews said.

Anderton yesterday labelled the consultation a "sham" to please the High Court.

None of the three options had a clear majority, he said.

"The idea that you have some kind of beauty contest to decide this . . . it's just ludicrous."

Anderton was surprised the decision had been made before the case had been considered by the "highest court in the land" - the Supreme Court.

The trust's lawyers will finalise its submissions "any day", after which the court will decide whether it will hear the case.

Restoration campaigner Mark Belton said the decision was surprising, given the ongoing legal action, but positive as the church had "finally come clean" about its position.

"We know that this is the church's position and it's important that it's out there now on the public record," he said.

"Now that it is clarified, we'll now be focusing on circumventing them."

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His group, Restore Christchurch Cathedral, planned to take legal action if the New Zealand Historic Places Trust granted the demolition order.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the decision would not be met with universal approval, but he hoped it would be an "end to the battle".

"I think the time has come to let go of what was once there - as special as it was for all of us - and to allow a new voice for the city, in a sense."

He wanted to see a "sympathetic" design that was "evocative, powerful [and] symbolic".

"I think it could be a very successful outcome, especially if the design is able to incorporate into it some of the very important existing elements, particularly of the interior of the current cathedral," Parker said.

"The only nervousness I have is that the ultimate design is able to fulfil the aspirations that I think the wider community have for whatever goes on that site."

- The Press


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