How's Christchurch? What's happening with the cathedral?" Generally when I'm overseas, and meet people who are acquainted with my hometown, those two questions are the first to fly off their tongues.
OPINION: Currently I'm bobbing about the Sea of Java, road-testing a new Holland America itinerary through the Indonesian islands. Many of the guests on board have recently been to Christchurch, as the MS Rotterdam has just completed its summer circuit around New Zealand, and the seasoned cruisers have remained on board for its repositioning to Asia.
It's been fascinating, alarming and enlightening to gauge their impressions of post-quake Christchurch. But in conversation with several dozen of these well-salted, straight-shooting world travellers, they were unanimously revolted that our enduring letterhead, Christ Church Cathedral, remains rotting on death row.
Walking into Cathedral Square and marvelling at the "straight as an arrow roofline" and how the bulk of the building remains "surprisingly intact", this worldly bunch of English, German, Canadian, American and Australian travel junkies could not believe that the Anglican Church was still hell-bent on demolishing Christchurch's pre-eminent landmark.
They were equally disbelieving at the absence of any donation boxes to support repairing the old girl. (Belinda from Baton Rouge theatrically choked on her Cosmopolitan when I asked her if she felt the Cardboard Cathedral was "iconic".) It's now been two years since Bishop Victoria and the Church Property Trust signed the death warrant on the cathedral, insisting it must be demolished for safety reasons.
Two years on, the city's most emblematic of buildings won't slip quietly into the night.
The vast bulk of the building has defied the doomsdayers, stubbornly standing its ground, proud like a sentinel, causing immense inconvenience and embarrassment to those who covet her being clear-felled and replaced by some crass, ephemeral salute to plumped egos and upturned dinghies. There are hills to die on and there are hills to let go. But Christchurch seems to have finally woken up to the full lunacy that is afoot. In recent weeks a clutch of opinion polls, in print and on radio, have all produced the same result. An emphatic majority of residents want the cathedral restored.
The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust points out that the fundraising mission to foot the bill for restoration is eminently achievable. The trust claims just $15 million is needed to fully-fund the project, once you add in the insurance proceeds and the unsolicited donations that have already been pledged.
It is not too late for Bishop Victoria and her merry men to step back, embrace the clear will of the people and really give Christchurch the uplift we crave.
- The Press