Cathedral restoration to spur central city regeneration

The building was completed in 1904.
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

The building was completed in 1904.

Restoration of the Christ Church Cathedral could be under way by Christmas and should spur regeneration of the central city, local leaders say.

The Anglican Diocese's governing body, the synod, voted on Saturday to restore the earthquake-damaged heritage building, which had been mired by legal challenges and funding rows since February 2011. 

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner was confident work could begin by December.

Bishop Victoria Matthews said she was "comfortable'' with the Synod's decision.
STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

Bishop Victoria Matthews said she was "comfortable'' with the Synod's decision.

The synod members debated three options ahead of the vote: restore the cathedral, knock it down and build a new one, or gift the building to the Government.

Bishop Victoria Matthews said restoration attracted about 55 per cent of the vote.

Mathews said Church Property Trustee lawyers would now begin negotiations with the Government to formalise the deal.

The Christ Church Cathedral has been sitting derelict in the city centre for more than six years.
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

The Christ Church Cathedral has been sitting derelict in the city centre for more than six years.

Wagner said restoration could be complete in seven years. She hoped that legal agreements with the Church Property Trustees could be signed "in days rather than weeks" and then work could begin.

"I would love them to start on Monday, but we need to do the documentation first. There is goodwill on all sides so I think we can get that done."

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said restoration would change Christchurch's image and trigger regeneration.

Bishop Victoria Matthews and Church Property Trustees lawyer Jeremy Johnson at St Christopher's Church in Avonhead for ...
STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

Bishop Victoria Matthews and Church Property Trustees lawyer Jeremy Johnson at St Christopher's Church in Avonhead for the synod meeting.

"I know that there are investors around the Square that were really reluctant to make a commitment but can now do that.

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"I"m absolutely fed up with Christchurch being identified as the city of the broken cathedral. It can now be identified as a city restoring a key piece of heritage in the city centre to its former glory.​"

Cathedral Square landowner Philip Carter was glad a decision had been made.

The synod voted to restore the building on Saturday.
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

The synod voted to restore the building on Saturday.

"It is good for the city, not just Cathedral Square. It gives more certainty around that area and people need certainty."

The decision was a victory for former politicians Philip Burdon and Jim Anderton, who had led a long campaign to restore the building as co-leaders of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT).

Wigram MP Megan Woods said Anderton was not well enough to comment, but was "very happy" with the decision.

The building has become a home for pigeons.
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

The building has become a home for pigeons.

Burdon said that Anderton was "enormously pleased and relieved that the problem has been solved".

"He is one of the most principled and idealistic people I have ever met. We would not have been able to achieve this without him."

Anderton was given his Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in a private ceremony at a Christchurch care centre on September 3. He was too frail to make the trip to Wellington for the official ceremony. Anderton has since left the care centre and is at home again.

The GCBT, th Government and the Christchurch City Council had pulled together a funding support deal for restoration of the cathedral. 

The deal included a $10 million council pledge, a GCBT fundraising pledge of $13.7m, a $10m Crown cash contribution and a $15m government loan that would not have to be paid back if certain conditions were met.

The pledges, along with the church's insurance proceeds of nearly $42m, amounted to just over $90m of the estimated $104m restoration cost.

The deal also capped the church's contribution to the $42m insurance payout. An interim High Court judgment in 2012 found the insurance payout could be used only for work on the existing structure or its successor in Cathedral Square.

Bishop Matthews said she was "completely comfortable" with the Synod's decision.

"Previously, before the very generous government offer, the church would have been in the position of fundraising in the neighbourhood of $50m. That to me was absolutely unacceptable."

"I have always loved the building, there is no question about that, but I don't think the church is here to be a fundraiser."

Burdon said the decision would kick-start fundraising for the restoration.

He said supermarket company Foodstuffs had previously pledged $250,000 towards the restoration over five years.

"We will have many more like that," he said.

He renewed his pledge to personally donate $1 million to the restoration of the cathedral. He hoped that English businessman Hamish Ogston would renew his 2012 pledge to donate $4 million to the restoration.

He said that before donations could only be made once fundraising committees had been formed, new legislation passed to give overseas donors tax breaks on donations and a joint working party formed to run the process.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the decision gave the city certainty.

"If it had been otherwise we would have been in court for years and we wouldn't have known the outcome until the final appeal."

Timeline: The path to restoration.

The foundation stone for the cathedral was laid in 1864 and the cathedral was fully completed by 1904.

October 2011 - Bishop Victoria Matthews announces cathedral will be deconsecrated and partially demolished.

April 2012 - Demolition of damaged tower begins.

July 2012 - GCBT claims cathedral could be restored safely and $50 million in donations could be raised.

August 2012 - GCBT takes Anglican church to High Court to stop demolition.

September 2013 - Anglicans choose to replace cathedral with new, modern building.

December 2013 - Supreme Court rejects appeal to preserve cathedral.

October 2015 - Mediator appointed by the Government to break cathedral deadlock.

December 2015 - Church leaders and Government announce "reinstatement" being considered.

June 2016 - The Government appoints a working party to consider restoration options.

November 2016 - Working party delivers non-binding restoration recommendations.

May 2017 - Church Property Trustees decide final decision would be made by the Synod on September 9.

July 2017 - Council pledges $10m for cathedral restoration and the Government makes an improved restoration offer.

August 2017 - Matthews adds third option of gifting cathedral to government to Synod vote.

September 2017 - Synod votes to restore cathedral.

 - Stuff

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