New Zealand: Christchurch Council calls for cathedral demolition pause

By Taonga staff
Posted May 17, 2012

[Anglican Taonga] The Christchurch City Council has asked for an “immediate pause” in the demolition of ChristChurch Cathedral.

After a lengthy debate, councilors on May 17 voted 10-4 to call for a halt to demolition while “deeper and more open consideration” of restoration plans take place.

However, deconstruction has already been halted to around mid-June.

In a statement this afternoon, the diocese pointed out that there is still a section 38 notice on the building and plans still have to meet the safety requirements of this notice.

“There is still a 76% probability of an aftershock of between 5-5.4, in the next year, which is both a safety risk for any workers on site and could also lead to further damage of the building,” the diocese said.

“The main priorities with the cathedral, as already stated, are safety and the safe retrieval of heritage items and taonga [treasured artifacts].”

City council debate

City councilors argued passionately for each side of the issue, with occasional flashes of anger.

Councilor Helen Broughton, who asked councilors to call for the pause, said the diocese needed to try every possible option to determine whether the heritage building could be saved.

“It holds an important place in the hearts and psyches of Christchurch residents, and restoration appears possible,” she said.

Councilor Claudia Reid said the council could not tell Anglican leaders what to do but had a duty to speak out on behalf of the city’s residents.

“There is a passion for a deeper conversation about the cathedral,” she said.

”It is a very potent symbol of who we are and what we are.”

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button, who was among those opposed to a halt in demolition, said the decision had been taken out of the diocese’s hands by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

“CERA said the cathedral was damaged and needed to be deconstructed or demolished. Whatever term you use, it needs to be taken down,” she said.

“The church didn’t make the decision to take it down; CERA decided to take it down.”

The council will write to Diocese of Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews, the Anglican diocese, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and CERA advising them of its decision.

The Restore Christ Church Cathedral group, which urged councilors to endorse a pause, has already lauded the decision in a media release saying: “We won!”