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New Zealand diocese to consider gifting its damaged cathedral to the the nation

New Zealand diocese to consider gifting its damaged cathedral to the the nation

Just over six years ago, a major earthquake struck Christchurch, NZ causing extensive damage throughout the city.  One of the casualties was the Anglican cathedral in the city center, which was damaged beyond repair.  Originally, the diocese planned to demolish the remnants and build a new contemporary  cathedral in its place.  However, that plan met fierce resistance from many residents and local leaders who insisted upon rebuilding the old cathedral as it was.

Drone photo of the destroyed Christchurch Cathedral taken earlier this year

In an attempt to persuade the diocese, local and national governments had offered to grant the diocese considerable sums towards rebuilding and at its upcoming Synod, the diocese was prepared to decide from two options. Option A was full reinstatement of the building taking up the Government grant and loan, Christchurch City Council loan and Great Christchurch Buildings Trust fundraising pledge, alongside the Church’s cathedral insurance payout. Option B was construction of an inspiring highly functional new cathedral in the Square on the current site, incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral building, using the Church’s cathedral insurance payout.


Now, a third option has been added, gifting the Cathedral to the Government for the people of New Zealand.  In a statement from the diocese, Bishop Victoria Matthews said;

“We love and have always loved the Cathedral building in the Square and we do hear the passion of the people about this great heritage building. Our concern with CPT committing to full reinstatement has always been about the risk of the cost going over what we are able to commit to the reinstatement.

“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. We need to be good stewards.

“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.”

Of the three options, Option A is for reinstatement of the Cathedral building and would see CPT accept the generous offer made on July 4 this year by the Government, which includes a previous $10 million grant and a new $15 million suspensory loan. This will be forgiven if the terms of the loan are met.

Alongside the Government’s offer is a $10 million grant from the Christchurch City Council which is subject to public consultation and dependent on whether there is a need for this grant after further fundraising.

The Government’s offer package includes a $13.7 million pledge from Great Christchurch Buildings Trust. Other costs associated with this option include an endowment to fund the ongoing costs of insurance and maintenance. This reinstatement would be in three steps and each step would proceed only when there is sufficient money for that part of the project.

Option A also includes establishing an independent Fundraising Trust with the Government enacting legislation to streamline project consenting and approval processes. This would involve setting up an unincorporated joint venture (UJV) between CPT and the Fundraising Trust to govern and manage the project.

 Option B is to construct an inspiring highly functional new cathedral in the Square on the current site, incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral building. The construction of the

new cathedral, including an endowment fund to pay for future ongoing costs of insurance and maintenance, will lie within the $42 million of cathedral insurance funds available.

Option C directs CPT to enter into negotiations with the Government for the gifting of the ChristChurch Cathedral building in the Square to the people of New Zealand. CPT would share its extensive knowledge and experience of the building to assist the Government in its reinstatement. The Diocese would seek permission to use the building for large services such as Easter and Christmas as part of any agreement.

“In less than a month, the decision about the future of the Cathedral building in the Square will be made. 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,” said Bishop Victoria.

“It is my hope, prayer and expectation that the best possible decision will be made by our Synod, so the city can progress its recovery and the Diocese’s vibrant mission and ministry in the name of Jesus Christ can flourish and grow.”


Noted New Zealand blogger Bosco Peters has had two recent posts (here and here) reflecting on the question “what is a cathedral?”  Though not focused on the Christchurch cathedral specifically, his reflections on the nature and purpose of cathedrals generally is a helpful addition to the conversation.


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JC Fisher

If I were a Christchurch Anglican, I’m sure I’d favor Option A. [Full disclosure: I’m not one the many “Emergent Church” types who think that sacred spaces—especially historic sacred spaces—are irrelevant. The historic cathedral SHOULD be restored, and it SHOULD remain a sacred (and Anglican) space.]

…but I’m not a Christchurch Anglican. Nor a Christchurch anything-else. I can see how Option B *could* be a satisfactory response…but the devil’s in the details, per always. Option C presumably saves the edifice—but obviously, at the cost of it being sacred. I don’t know—I throw up my hands, to the Kiwis to decide.

Cynthia Katsarelis

That sounds like a great argument for a broader population to support the rebuild and continued maintenance. It doesn’t sound right for the Anglicans there to carry the burden, rather than pursue their missional goals.

Drew Nadell

This cathedral is not only important as a place of Anglican worship, but as one of the great achievements of the Gothic Revival architect George Gilbert Scott, who might be said to be second only to Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin in the pantheon of 19th-century English architects. In that respect, it is an international architectural treasure, and its restoration would be a gift to the world.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Option B seems to me the best stewardship for the church, and I bet they would end up with a fabulous building that had symbols of the past and aspirations for the future. Short of that, Option C sounds about right, a creative solution to a difficult problem. Is the church “established” there?

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