THE RESTORE CHRISTCHURCH CATHEDRAL CAMPAIGN ABOUT US…We represent the diverse community of people who support full restoration of Christchurch Cathedral. We welcome support of all people. Please join our community of volunteers and help save the cathedral. We also need funding to support our work.

A SHORT HISTORY…Christchurch Cathedral The building of Christchurch Cathedral by early settlers began just 14 years after the city was founded. The ambitious design by leading architects Gilbert Scott and Benjamin Mountfort took 40 years to complete and is the jewel in the crown of the Christchurch’s renowned Victorian Gothic architecture. Construction of the cathedral was a huge undertaking for a tiny community and was only made possible by gifts of land and money and the extraordinary efforts of early settlers. In many ways the cathedral located at the heart of the city expressed the city founder’s spiritual and civic aspirations, and in time it became the symbol of Christchurch’s identity. Over recent decades the people of Christchurch have continued to pay for maintenance and earthquake strengthening, the only reason why so much of the building withstood the recent quakes.

The Christchurch Earthquakes... The cathedral was severely damaged by the sequence of 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. The top half of the spire was toppled by the February 2011 earthquake, The west wall and rose window were punched out during later quakes by a structure intended to help stabilise the building. Over the last year or so the earthquakes have tapered off to small and infrequent events and no further significant 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 ChCh Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) process for earthquake damaged buildings. Within a short time over 100 leading structural and seismic engineers proclaimed that there was no need for demolition They stated that the cathedral could be restored fully to its former glory and with modern seismic engineering, 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 Christchurch 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).

Court action the only option... 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 in the High Court the church trustee’s (CPT) legal rights under the cathedral’s trust deeds to ignore requests from the community and proceed with demolition. Judge Chisholm in his decision directed the church to consider all options for the cathedral and to consult with the public. He also determined that the church had illegally used cathedral insurance money to build the temporary cardboard cathedral on another site. However Judge Chisholm 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 its objections to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the GCBT’s case. GCBT then lodged a further appeal to the Supreme Court; however in December 2013 the Supreme Court declined to hear a further appeal. It will take at least until mid-2014 for Judge Chisholm’s High Court directives to be satisfied. Once the courts requirements are satisfied, the church may seek to obtain consent to demolish the building. However there are two other court proceedings waiting to block the church, one based on the NZ Historic Places Trusts statutory obligations for archaeological sites, and the other challenging the justification for the CERA Section 38 demolition order.

The church’s consultation; the three options Meantime, following Judge Chisholm’s directives the church has gone through the motions of a ‘consultation’ process which it completed in May 2013. It put three ‘costed’ options out for consideration: 1. Full restoration (this was the first time the church acknowledged full and safe restoration was possible) 2. A traditional looking replica built to the same footprint and scale 3. A modern or contemporary design The church claimed (without any supporting evidence) that restoration could take up to 22 years to complete and would cost up to $225 million because of cost escalation over time. It did not provide comparable escalation in costings for options 2 and 3 should they be delayed. The only fair comparison between the options would have been to provide comparative costings for each one at different time intervals.

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 initial stabilisation and make safe work and offered 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 the church’s Quantity Surveyors costings, except GCBT assumed an immediate start and completion within seven years. GCBT, on the advice of independent engineers, also excluded base isolation work as being unnecessary, and excluded the 10% fund raising overhead that was in the church’s costings.

The revised costing for full restoration is $67 million The church has about $40 million in insurance pay-outs for the cathedral (when the c. $6 million illegally spent on the cardboard cathedral is repaid). Applying the cost estimate of $67 million and taking account of the $40 million of insurance money and the $7.9 million pledged by GCBT, it leaves a funding gap of just $20 million to cover full restoration. The GCBT’s offer of $7.9 million to enable initial stabilisation and make safe work to get underway still stands.

Only $20 million of extra fund raising As a conservative estimate it can be assumed $20 million of extra fund raising would be required over and above the Insurance payout and the money already pledged through GCBT. This is a trifling amount of money for such an important project and would be easily raised if the Church would commit to restoration and accept offers of help. The GCBT and others have offered to help raise the additional money and are fully confident this can be achieved. It is noted that many restoration specialists and leading stone-masonry and engineering and construction companies have indicated they would contribute their services at significantly discounted prices… so the actual cost should be less than $67 million.. The Church Rebuffs all offers. Sadly up till now the church has rebuffed all offers of assistance, most recently the outreach from NZ Historic Places Trust, the NZ Government agency charged with protecting our heritage. It is clear the Bishop is absolutely determined to demolish the cathedral and cannot be dissuaded from this course.

Preventing demolition When the current High Court action is completed the church will be required to seek an archaeological consent to demolish the building because of its pre-1900 status. We believe HPT will decline to issue demolition consent. However if HPT did issue a consent we are prepared to engage Chen Palmer, NZ’s top public law firm, to challenge in the High Court the granting of the archaeological consent in order to block demolition. Other legal options include challenging the CERA Section 38 order. If the Section 38 order was removed demolition would require RMA consent.

The way forward Meantime the building still stands awaiting restoration by the community of people who love and respect it. The cathedral restoration campaign groups are optimistic the restoration cause will win through. 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 from New Zealand and from overseas have offered their services and help including stonemasons, glass artisans, expert engineers, wood artisans and project management companies.


JOIN US  We recently formed an incorporated society, Restore Christchurch Cathedral Group Incorporated.   Membership of the society is $10.  You can download a subscription form here.  We have applied for charitable status.  If that is granted it means that any donations made to the society will be eligible for a tax rebate.  We have kept the membership subscription modest in the hope that members will also be encouraged to make donations.







Join the discussion 13 Comments

  1. Robert Cox July 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm — Reply

    I am one of Bishop Harper’s many great grandchildren. I live in Auckland, but have in the past visited his tomb in the cathedral several times.

    Can you please advise me where I can get further information about the present status and condition of his tomb.

    Many thanks. Yours sincerely,
    Robert Cox

  2. Drew Parsons July 31, 2013 at 11:16 pm — Reply

    Thursday 01 August is the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. The uprising saw most of what remained of the war torn city dynamited by way of retribution by the German occupying forces. After these reprisals only 15% of the city’s buildings remained standing. However, the Poles have rebuilt the entire city brick by brick so that the historic centre once again lives on fully restored to its former glory. It’s the same story with Dresden and in particular its wonderful Frauenkirche which has similarly been fully restored from what had been a rubble site after allied carpet bombing of the city towards the end of the war. How is it that New Zealand cannot do the same for one iconic building – Christchurch Cathedral. I am not a Christian and have no religious interest in the building but do see it as a cultural and historic landmark which will be lost to the nation if the current plans to demolish it are carried through. Maybe this anniversary of the Warsaw uprising can be used to publicise what can be done where there is a will to salvage iconic places for future generations.

    • Graham Burgess September 10, 2015 at 10:05 pm — Reply

      Hi Drew,
      I am very impressed by your access to history and renderings of what used to be.

      I am involved planning a major project which seeks to tune into ancient thinking and re creating many of the things done in the past and basing it on practical dynamics. I believe the new discoveries at Durrington Walls re-inforce my views of the use of such areas for practical agricultural processes. Near to me here in Hampshire England is a henge site at Clatford and adjacent is a specially shaped field designed I believe to accommodate pigs so they could have their share of the harvest without being moved around away from the site. The pigs I believe were also used for disposal of waste of al sorts and I have seen this applied in the jungles of south America recently. I have a picture I took of a tamed peccary (a useful pet) with a pet spider monkey on its back !.

      Please get in touch

      Graham Burgess.

      ps my late partner and Anderson was a Kiwi.

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