Anglicans should not decide Christ Church Cathedral future - poll video

JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF.CO.NZ

Christ Church Cathedral building owners, Church Property Trustees (CPT), commissioned independent research to understand the views of the people of greater Christchurch and to garner the public's preferences for the future of the cathedral.

A majority of city residents polled by  the Anglican church believe the future of the Christ Church Cathedral is "too important" to be "left to the Anglicans alone to decide".

The survey, commissioned by Church Property Trustees, found 59 per cent of respondents felt Anglicans should not make the decision alone. About 48 per cent of those polled believed the Government should intervene in the future of the cathedral.

It also found 58 per cent of Christchurch residents polled favoured restoration of the earthquake-damaged building, while 33 per cent wanted a new building and 9 per cent did not mind or care what happened.

Government figures put the Anglican church's repair estimate for Christ Church Cathedral as $20m too high.
IAIN McGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Government figures put the Anglican church's repair estimate for Christ Church Cathedral as $20m too high.

However, respondents' preferences changed after they were told a new build would not require government or ratepayer funds, would take eight years and would not have an impact on rates.

This was contrasted to restoration, which had a $56 million funding gap, would take seven years and would cost $1000 a day in insurance once restored. The survey did not mention the $10m government loan offer or a $15 million funding pledge from heritage group the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust for the restoration.

After this, 43 per cent of respondents wanted restoration, 49 per cent wanted a new build and 8 per cent eight per cent still did not mind or care what happened.

Bishop Victoria Matthews says the church will be in "serious trouble" if the damage is worse than anticipated, or there ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON / STUFF

Bishop Victoria Matthews says the church will be in "serious trouble" if the damage is worse than anticipated, or there is a fundraising shortfall.

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The survey was conducted by Christchurch market research firm Research First in April by landline, cell phone and face-to-face. A sample group of 380 people were surveyed with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 per cent.

Bishop Victoria Matthews said she was surprised by the results.

"I thought there might be a stronger preference one way or the other," she said.

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"The consistent surprise is how much the opinion is split. There are other voices saying everybody agrees it should be this or that. I keep coming across a 50-50 split. That makes it very difficult."

Matthews met Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the cathedral. Following the meeting Dalziel said only that it was was "a good chance to catch up to get an update on the Synod process" and to discuss "next steps".

A decision on the future of the Christ Church Cathedral will be made by the Anglican synod in September.

The 225-member governing body for Canterbury Anglicans includes elected lay members and priests. The bishop has one vote, the clergy have one vote and lay members have one vote. 

Matthews said she hoped to give every member of the synod a single, equal vote on the cathedral decision, rather than voting in houses.

"We are working hard and think we can achieve a way that we vote as one house and get everyone to agree to that. We won't know until we are at the Synod. Then it will be a secret ballot and we will see where that goes."

Matthews said she did not want to fundraise for the restoration of the cathedral.

"At the moment, I have very little appetite for going out and fundraising. I have concern for other very real concerns in the community that need funding … like housing and mental health.

"I think the great, great heritage of this country is its natural environment, the beauty of the environment and that is being neglected in places. I get worried about fundraising for one building, however important or however much I love that building."

But the survey contradicted this view. It found that 21 per cent of respondents believed there are better things the Anglican Church could do with its insurance settlement money than spend it on fixing or building a cathedral.

The survey also found that support for restoring the cathedral was highest among people aged 18 to 24. Support in that age group for restoration was 69 per cent, compared to 51 per cent for people aged 51 to 64.

Restore Christ Church Cathedral Group co-chairman Mark Belton has previously criticised the wording of some of the poll questions as "leading and misleading".

However, Belton yesterday said it was encouraging to see the proportion of younger respondents who supported restoration.

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 - Stuff

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