Christchurch City Council votes to give $10m to save Christ Church Cathedral

The Christchurch City Council has voted to help pay for the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral.
IAIN McGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

The Christchurch City Council has voted to help pay for the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral.

The city council has pledged $10 million to restore Christ Church Cathedral, further strengthening the public commitment to save the earthquake-damaged building.

Stuff understands Christchurch city councillors voted unanimously to help pay for the rebuild of the church at an extraordinary meeting on Friday.

The decision is in principle only, contingent on restoration going ahead. Public consultation is needed, as no such funding for the cathedral was allocated in the council's Long Term Plan.

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Prime Minister Bill English confirmed Cabinet was briefed on funding options for restoration on Monday.

Prime Minister Bill English confirmed Cabinet was briefed on funding options for restoration on Monday.

Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner is expected to confirm further details at a press conference on Tuesday morning. On Monday, her office declined to comment on the council decision, or the possibility of a new government offer in light of it. 

Prime Minister Bill English said Cabinet was briefed about funding options for the cathedral on Monday.

"There'll be some government support. The tenor of that is being discussed between the minister and the Anglican church.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel favoured council support for the cathedral.
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel favoured council support for the cathedral.

"Nicky Wagner . . . has been meeting fairly regularly with [the church] in recent times about the extent of Government support. We can go so far, but ultimately it's their decision about restoring the cathedral. What we want to see is a decision. Because nothing's actually happening there and hasn't for a long time."

Friday's council vote was urgent because the Anglican Synod, a 225-member governing body for Canterbury Anglicans including elected lay members and priests, will vote on the future of the cathedral in September. Pre-synod meetings are being held around Canterbury this month.

The council money would come from its heritage budget over several years. The council frequently provides funding to preserve heritage buildings, but not on this scale. Recent contributions include $1.9m each for McLeans Mansion and the Public Trust office. Mayor Lianne Dalziel last week spoke in favour of council financial support for restoration.

A council contribution would bolster an earlier offer to the Anglican church of public funds to help cover the majority of the $104m restoration cost. That offer included a $10m government grant, a $15m government loan and a $15m funding pledge from campaign group the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT). The church has a $42m insurance payout as well.

The cathedral has languished in the city centre since 2011, its fate unclear. A recent survey commissioned by the Church Property Trustees found public opinion on the building was divided. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents favoured restoration. The Cathedral Working Group report, delivered to government in November, recommended restoration for the heritage building.

GCBT co-chairman Philip Burdon said the vote was "a very generous commitment by the council".

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"I hope it all goes towards satisfying the Church Property Trustees of the significant local and central government ambition to support restoration. Along with, of course, the clear evidence of the external polling by the community at large."

The Cathedral Working Group report put GCBT donations at at least $13.7m and "potentially much more". Burdon said there was "indicative support" for at least another $15m.

The Church Property Trustees and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel declined to comment on Monday.

 - Stuff

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