About Us…the Restore Christchurch Cathedral Campaign
We represent the diverse community of people who support full restoration of Christ Church Cathedral. We welcome support of all people, please join us and help us save the cathedral
A Short History…Christchurch Cathedral
The building of Christchurch Cathedral by first settlers began just 14 years after the city was founded. The ambitious design by leading architects George Gilbert Scott and Benjamin Mountfort took 40 years to complete and is the jewel in the crown of Christchurch’s renowned Victorian Gothic architecture. Construction of the Cathedral was a huge undertaking for a small community and only made possible by gifts of land, money and work from the early settlers. In many ways the Cathedral, located at the heart of the city, expressed the city founders spiritual and civic aspirations and in time became the symbol of the city’s identity. Over recent decades, the people of christchurch continued to pay for maintenance and earthquake strengthening, contributing to the building’s withstanding of the recent quakes.
The Christchurch Earthquakes
The Cathedral was severely damaged by major earthquakes that hit Christchurch over a period of about 18 months from September 2010 to summer 2012.
About 80% of the original building still stands with the roof structure entirely intact and as straight as an arrow. Over the last year or so the earthquakes have tappered off to small and infrequent events and no further damage to the building has occurred.
The Church Elects to Demolish while Top Engineers Want Restoration
In February 2012 the Church Property Trustees (CPT) chaired by Bishop Victoria Matthews elected to have the building demolished in accordance with a Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) process for earthquake damaged buildings. Within a short time over 100 leading structural and siesmic engineers proclaimed that there was no need for demolition and that the cathedral could be restored fully to its former glory and with modern siesmic enginering could be made safe to the highest level of the new codes for public buildings in New Zealand. In other words the restored cathedral would be as safe as any new post-quake buildings in Christchurch.
Campaign to Save the Cathedral Launched
Confident of the support of the expert engineering community the Restore Christchrurch Cathedral (RCC) campaign was launched. First we met with the Bishop and other Church leaders and attempted to persuade and assist them to embrace the restoration option. RCC also lobbied politicians and civic leaders, launched a media campaign, and held a hugely successful public rally. Sadly the church leaders spurned all offers for assistance and continued to insist demolition was the “only safe option” (sic).
Compelled to Court Action
About this time it became apparent the Church had no interest in restoration and the only hope of stopping demolition of the Cathedral was through the Courts
In June 2012 the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) challenged the Church’s (CPT) legal right to proceed with demolition and ignore requests from the community. Judge Chisholm subsequently directed the Church to consider all options and consult with the public. He also found that the CPT was within its rights to demolish and erect a new cathedral. The GCBT did not agree with Judge Chisholm that the church may choose to replace the original Cathedral and in april 2013 lodged an appeal. The Appeals Court has upheld Judge Chisholm’s that there in nothing in the language of the CPT’s Deed of Trust that precludes destroying the Cathedral.
The Church’s Consultation on 3 Options
Meantime the Church has gone through a consultation process which it completed in may 2013. It put three ‘costed’ options for consideration:
1. Full Restoration (this was the first time the church acknowledged full and safe restoration was possible and an acceptable outcome to them)
2. A traditional looking replica built to the same footprint and scale
3. A modern or contemporary design
The church then argued on the basis of bizarre timelines and escalted costs that restoration could take up to 22 years and cost up to $225 million
The GCBT Solution Proposal
Meantime GCBT put a solution proposal to the Church. It presented detailed plans by an Independent Panel of Expert Engineers for intial stablisation and make-safe work and offerred to fund all costs for this work (approx. $7.9 million) and to start this work immediately. GCBT also presented its own cost estimates based on the church’s restoration plan and costings, except it assummed an immediate start and completion within 7 years. GCBT, on the advice of independent engineers, also excluded base isolation work as being unnecessary.
The revised costing for full restoration is $67 million.
The church has about $40 million in insurance payouts for restoration of the cathedral. This leaves a funding gap of about $27 million. The GCBT has offered to help raise the additional money required and is confident this can be achieved.
The Way Forward
To cover against this possibility RCC engaged public law specialists Chen-Palmer to explore other statutory legal avenues to stop demolition. Chen-Palmer advised that legislation governing the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) should prevent them from signing off on the buildings demolition. If NZHPT did not act on this advice and proceeded to give approval for demolition RCC would take all legal action required to enjoin that destruction.
The RCC campaign is optimistic it will eventually win. However we must be ready to continue the fight in the Courts. Meantime, the building still stands awaiting restoration by the community of people who love and respect it.
We see Restoration of the Cathedral as essential to the recovery of the spirit and identity of our city, a historic legacy to pass on to future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
Most importantly, Restoration would be a healing process for our earthquake wounded community. Many experts in Restoration and Construction have offered their services and help including stonemasons, glass artisans, expert engineers, wood artisans and project management companies. Many have offered to work at-cost, or at reduced fees, or pro-bono.
Your help is needed too.