Anglican synod to consider gifting Christ Church Cathedral to the people of NZ
A new option for the future of the Christ Church Cathedral has been tabled, less than four weeks out from a decision on the derelict building's fate.
The Anglican synod will meet on September 9 to vote on what to do with the earthquake-damaged cathedral. Until now, it was considering two options: restoration or building a new church.
But on Monday the Anglican diocese announced there would be a third choice: handing it over to the Government to manage on behalf of the citizenry.
"By gifting the cathedral building to the Government, it would be reinstated to its former glory and managed by them on behalf of all New Zealanders for use as a public space. I am not saying that will happen, but it is a possibility I think we need to put before the synod," Bishop Victoria Matthews said.
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The concern of the diocese and the Church Property Trustees (CPT), which manages Anglican land and property in Canterbury, was that restoration costs would run over budget, even with central and local government support.
"For example, if the damage is worse than anticipated or there is a fundraising shortfall, we would be in serious trouble even with the generous government offer," Matthews said.
"We need to be good stewards."
Under the third option the CPT would enter into negotiations with the Government about the gifting process and help with restoration. As part of any agreement, the diocese would seek permission to use the building for large services, such as Easter and Christmas.
When asked whether the church's insurance proceeds of nearly $42 million would be gifted as well, Matthews said it would be "discussed as part of the negotiations" with the Government.
An interim High Court judgement in 2012 found the nearly insurance payout could be used only for work on the existing structure or its successor in Cathedral Square after the CPT used $4m of it on the Transitional Cathedral on Hereford St. The money had since been paid back.
Diocese members were set to hear the three options at a series of area meetings this week ahead of the synod vote. In a statement, the diocese said it "strongly encourages those involved or interested in the decision to review this information".
"In less than a month, the decision about the future of the [cathedral] will be made," Matthews said.
"To those who say it has taken far too long, the church agrees, but in fact we have had to spend time in the courts and have experienced other delays such as the Government's offer of assistance. Those two factors together added months and even years to the diocese's ability to make our decision."
Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner said the new option showed the church understood the importance of getting a decision at synod.
Wagner said Matthews had recently told her she was going to put the option on the table for the synod, but the Government did not know all the details of the proposal.
She did not say whether the Government wanted the cathedral, should it be offered.
The model for funding would likely "have to remain the same", she said, with $90m already earmarked to cover the main building and auxiliary, with fundraising to pay for the steeple and turret.
"I think it's about having a discussion and seeing what the synod's appetite is for managing a reinstatement going forward."
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she had "a lot of unanswered questions" about the offer, so needed more detail before she could comment.
Restoration campaigner Philip Burdon, who co-chairs the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), said he would like to see the cathedral "restored under the auspices of the Anglican Church".
"However, if they are not prepared to do that, then it's appropriate to gift it to the Crown and the people of New Zealand."
Financial support for restoration has grown in recent months. It included the church's insurance proceeds of nearly $42m, a $10m pledge from the Christchurch City Council – supported by councillors, but subject to consultation – a GCBT pledge of $13.7m, a $10m Crown cash contribution and a $15m government loan that would not have to be paid back if restoration was completed in reasonable time and stayed within budget.
The Government has said it would cost $104m to restore the cathedral, compared to $127.2m quoted by Anglican leaders. The Government estimated it would cost $80m to build a new cathedral, compared to the $43m estimated by the CPT.
The synod is a 225-member governing body for Canterbury Anglicans that includes lay members and priests.
THE THREE OPTIONS
▪ Rebuild the cathedral using the church's insurance money and the Government support package in a joint venture between the CPT and an independent fundraising trust. The trust will raise the rest of the money required. The Government estimates the shortfall to be $10m to $15m. The church thinks it might be more.
▪ Demolish the cathedral and build a new one on the same site, incorporating features and materials from the original. The church says it would do this with its $42m insurance payout. The Government estimates the cost to be $80m.
▪ The church gifts the cathedral to the Government to reinstate and manage on behalf of the people of New Zealand. Under the agreement the diocese would assist with restoration and retain permission to use the church on large occasions such as Easter and Christmas.
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