Government offers new deal to break Christ Church Cathedral deadlock
New legislation could help reinstate much of the ailing Christ Church Cathedral within seven years, the Government says.
Special legislation makes up part of the Government's new, and final, cathedral reinstatement offer, which has been presented by Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner to Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews.
Matthews will take the revised offer to the Synod, a 225-member governing body of elected parishioners and priests, which will decide whether to accept it in September.
The offer includes a $10 million Christchurch City Council pledge – supported in principle unanimously by councillors behind closed doors on Friday, but subject to public consultation – a Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) pledge of $13.7m, a $10m Crown cash contribution and a $15m government loan that would not have to be paid back if the restoration was completed in a reasonable time and stayed within budget. That money, along with the church's insurance proceeds of nearly $42m, amounted to just over $90m of the estimated $104m restoration cost.
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The offer also proposes new legislation, which would allow reinstatement of the cathedral to be fast tracked, and the formation of an independent fundraising trust to find the remaining money. These two elements, and the council money, augment the original government offer made last year, and closely follow recommendations of the Cathedral Working Party report, delivered to government in November. That report said a funding shortfall of up to $50m could be raised in three to five years.
Bishop Victoria Matthews said the latest terms were a "generous offer".
"Because we have only just received this proposal from the Government, alongside the council contribution, there will be much for the Synod members to ponder."
The information would be presented at pre-synod meetings ahead of the September vote.
Wagner said: "The Government contribution is a significant amount of money, but we need to balance the property rights of the church with the historical value of the building and the need to break this deadlock."
"About half of Christchurch wants to see the cathedral reinstated, the other half wants a modernised version or a contemporary new-build, but really, everyone just needs a decision. It's time to move forward, and I think this is our best option."
The offer carries an indicative timetable of seven years for completion of the main and ancillary buildings.
The tower and spire would take up to three years longer to complete.
"We can simplify what we have to do in consenting . . . Really what it's to do is to make sure that we can act fast," Wagner said.
The church was close to accepting the Government's previous offer, but did not feel it was "quite secure . . . or certain enough", she said.
"What they've got this time is they've got a suspensory loan and they've got two signed off documents [by the city council and Great Christchurch Buildings Trust] that they didn't have before."
The money was enough to reinstate the cathedral itself and the ancillary buildings, "then they will have to fundraise for the tower", Wagner said.
Under the new offer, a joint venture made up of the Church Property Trustees and a fundraising trust would govern and manage the reinstatement.
It would also establish a maintenance and insurance fund and allocate $5m to the fund.
Tuesday's proposal was the Government's "final offer", Wagner said
"It's the one that we could start as soon as the [Synod] decision is made."
Matthews had declined Wagner's offer for someone to talk directly to the Synod about the Government proposal.
"But maybe when it actually comes to the Synod at the other end I could ask again," Wagner said.
GCBT co-chairman Philip Burdon welcomed the latest offer.
"The working party's report has become the new template and we certainly support that and [would be] delighted if the church and the government have reached an agreement to restore."
In a letter to Matthews on Saturday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel confirmed councillors voted unanimously on Friday night to help pay for the Cathedral rebuild with a $10m grant. The decision was in principle only – contingent on restoration going ahead – and subject to public consultation.
"In 1856, we needed city status to have a cathedral, and now in 2017, we need our Cathedral to help restore our city's status and to enable the heart of our city to beat once more."
In a statement on Tuesday, Dalziel said if the Synod decided to demolish the Cathedral, the inevitable legal proceedings would mean more uncertainty for years to come.
"Although such a grant can be seen as recognition of the Cathedral's heritage status and its important contribution to civic life and the Christchurch visitor experience, it is in fact the desire for certainty about the future of Cathedral Square and what it means for our city's recovery that drives my wish to see a final decision made that is not subject to litigation," she said.
"The Government's proposal to legislate, backed by other political parties, gives us the certainty we need to move on.
"I'm hoping that the Council's proposed contribution will add weight to the Government's offer and at the same time show the Synod that it is not just the fate of the Cathedral that lies in their hands – it's the ability for the heart of the city to flourish once more."
- Crown cash contribution of $10 million;
- Crown-funded interest free suspensory loan of $15m. Repayment of the loan will be suspended and forgiven if the project meets reasonable building completion time and cost targets. Other terms of the suspensory loan are to be agreed.
- Christchurch City Council grant of $10m – subject to public consultation;
- Great Christchurch Buildings Trust pledge of $13.7m;
- An independent fundraising trust;
- Legislation to streamline project consenting and approval processes; and
- A joint venture between the Church Property Trust and the fundraising trust to govern and manage the project.
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