Bishop Victoria call Press Conference on Christchurch Cathedral

Cathedral restoration: Church disputes Government offered 25m


Bishop Victoria Mathews called an emergency media standup on Sunday to refute Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee’s claim that  the Government offered the church a $25 million deal to restore the building.

On Friday Brownlee said he was disappointed an offer to help with the restoration of the Anglican Cathedral in Christchurch was turned down by the Church Property Trustees (CPT).

He said the offer was made up of $10m in cash and a $15m loan.

The Bishop says Brownlee’s claims of a $25 million offer of Government help are incorrect.

“CPT reached an agreement with mandated Crown negotiators including the Christchurch working group chairman Geoff Dangerfield . . . before Christmas,” Matthews said on Sunday.

“That agreement, to CPT’s surprise, proved not acceptable to the minister and at the last minute a two page, non-binding, principles document was sent through to the negotiating table.”

“This two page statement of principles significantly changed the terms in ways that were not acceptable to CPT as prudent trustees, with $42 million to put towards an over $100 million project.”

On Friday Brownlee had said a second government had made an offer with different terms.

He understood the CPT would be meeting this week to discuss the second offer.

However Matthews said there had been very limited informal discussion.

“A revised two page statement of principles, which is non-binding and which I believe has not been seen by Cabinet, arrived this week.”

“But it was not presented by the Minister, nor did we have assurance he was in favour of every aspect of it,” Matthews said.

On Friday the church said CPT has no scheduled meeting this week.

The church says a decision over the Cathedral’s fate will be out in the next six months.

The cathedral has been derelict for almost six years since the February 2011 quake, with parties at an impasse on whether to demolish or to attempt restoration.

The government set up a working group to look at options for restoration, but no deal has so far been reached.


It seems to me, from the sidelines, that The ‘Impasse’, claimed to have been caused by the Cathedral Property Trustees (CPT) in the ongoing delay on the re-build/replacement of the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral, was clearly outlined by our Bishop Victoria Matthews at the recent Press Conference she recently called.

Critics of the delay need to be reminded (yet again) that this is not the fault of either our Bishop or the CPT of the Christchurch Diocese. Left alone, the diocese would already have demolished the earthquake compromised building and begun a brand new Cathedral on the site. The delay is entirely the fault of the Greater Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT), headed by Messrs: Philip Burdon and Jim Anderton – former parliamentarians – whose links with the current governmental review authority cannot be denied.

Despite being called in as a ‘referee’ on the re-build, it would appear that Minister Gerry Brownlee’s offer of financial support from the government might have been dependent on the CPT bowing to the insistent demands of Messrs: Burdon and Anderton to  rebuild the Cathedral in the same style as the original; whose design has already twice failed the test of earthquake suitability. 

Today’s (22 Feb.) Press Editorial contains the relevant facts about the financial offer from the Government which, though in itself not ratified, would still not meet the actual cost of the more expensive restoration option. The Diocese had already decided to build a brand new purpose-built Cathedral which would have – if not legally challenged by the GCBT – by now have been well advanced; at a cost less than that of GCBT’s proposal for restoration.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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