The earthquake damaged Christ Church Cathedral will be “deconstructed” to a “safe” level of 2-3 metres and will not be rebuilt.
The building was extensively damaged in the earthquakes that rocked New Zealand over the last 18 months, with its spire snapping in half during the fatal 6.3-magnitude quake of February 22, 2011 that devastated the city of Christchurch. Aftershocks and small quakes have caused further damage to the building.
Some walls may be lowered even further, for safety reasons, while none of the walls will be left intact. But the footprint will remain, and no bulldozers or wrecking balls will be used in the demolition.
Bishop Victoria Matthews released this information early this afternoon.
Mayor Bob Parker called the decision “heartbreaking” for many people in Christchurch. “We all have a sense of ownership in this building,” he said.
“This has not been an easy decision for the church. It is not an easy decision for many of us to accept either.”
Earlier, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee applauded the decision, which was made last night at a special meeting of the Diocesan Standing Committee and Church Property Trustees.
Bishop Victoria said taonga and heritage items – including the stained-glass windows – would be removed over the next few months.
The process of bringing down the 130-year-old cathedral to a safe level is likely to take most of the year.
“This is very different from the plan presented last October, due to the seismic events of 23 December,” she said in a prepared statement to the diocese.
“CERA has insisted that we present a new plan to ensure the building is safe, and we agree with their requirement.
“I am sad to have to relay this decision but I believe it is the way forward.
“There are of course other voices and alternative opinions but I have relayed to you the decision of the Cathedral Project Group, which … has the delegated authority to make recommendations about the future of the cathedral to the Cathedral Chapter, CPT and Standing Committee.
“The decision was made with much prayer and deliberation and has the support of each of the various groups.
“It is also the decision that has the highest support from CERA for safety reasons.
“The demolition and deconstruction will be carried out with care and great respect for a wonderful sacred space that has been damaged beyond repair.
The brutal safety measures will allow the retrieval of taonga and heritage items.
Rev Matthews said a rebuild was not feasible, as was a replica cathedral, saying it would cost more than $100 million.
“We would not be responsible stewards if we ignored the financial realities,” she said.
“The Anglican Diocese is facing a hard reality _ the cathedral is the revered `Mother Church’ but is not the only church in the Diocese to have sustained damage, in some cases irreparable or too costly to repair.”
She could not rule out a full demolition admitting: “It is in the realms of possibility, but it is not desirable.”
The church said the deconstruction would likely be completed by the end of the year.
A new “beautiful, inspiring, safe” cathedral would be built somewhere, but it would take “years, not months.”