Church 'made mistake' with cardboard cathedral funding

The Anglican Diocese has admitted it was wrong to use a multimillion-dollar insurance payout from the quake-damaged Christ Church Cathedral to fund its transitional "cardboard'' cathedral.

The ongoing legal saga surrounding the damaged 132-year-old Christchurch landmark building's future has returned to court today.

In 2012, the High Court ruled that the Anglican church was entitled to deconstruct the building, but only if a new one - and not necessarily a replica - was built on the same Cathedral Square site.

The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), fronted by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal, which last year upheld the High Court's findings.

And last December, the Supreme Court dismissed a further appeal against its deconstruction.

Cathedral custodians, the Church Property Trustees (CPT), last year released three design options for a future cathedral.

It included full restoration costing; a timber replacement, or contemporary design , which the church said it preferred.

A defended hearing is going ahead before Justice Graham Panckhurst at the High Court in Christchurch today.

CPT made an application to discharge a stay of demolition.

The move would allow them to start deconstructing the cathedral to a "safe'' height of two to three metres.

"It's time to move on,'' CPT lawyer Jeremy Johnson said today.

The Anglican Church "isn't in a rush'', Mr Johnson said, but wanted to start the deconstruction process, which could take 12-18 months to complete.

It was "prudent'' for CPT wants to reassess the design and budget as they embark on such a lengthy and complex situation, Mr Johnson said.

The GCBT's attempts to continue fighting the deconstruction was "not appropriate'', the court heard.

And today, the CPT admitted it "made a mistake'' in using a $4 million insurance payout to start construction of the church's temporary cardboard cathedral on another site.

In 2012, the High Court questioned the legality of the move.

Today, Mr Johnson admitted that they were wrong to do that and, after taking directions from the court, have subsequently found the money to build the cardboard cathedral, which is now complete, from elsewhere.

They had also reallocated the $4 million of insurance funds, plus $250,000 of interest, to other general purpose funds.

Any suggestions the cash was diverted in bad faith, are "inappropriate, unhelpful, and untrue'', Mr Johnson said.

"The decision CPT made was on the basis of full insurance monies being made available.''

The cathedral, designed by English Gothic designer George Gilbert Scott, was consecrated on November 1, 1881.

It withstood violent earthquakes in 1881, 1888, 1922, 1901 and on September 4, 2010.

But its spire was snapped in the deadly February 22, 2011 quake.

The hearing continues and is expected to conclude later today when Justice Panckhurst is expected to reserve his decision.

 

Cardboard cathedral

One thing I could not understand was the award for architecture, given that - unless the person who told me was misinformed - the structure built as designed leaked, and it then had to be covered by a kind of greenhouse plastic. Could be a rumour....

I got the impression that certain high-placed individuals, now that the real Cathedral was so badly damaged, were overcome by the desire, common in high-placed individuals, to create a monument to their time in power. The quicker a temporary replacement could be erected then the remains of the real Cathedral smashed beyond repair, the better. No argument to the contrary would be tolerated, no matter how much it cost to achieve the desired monument. There appeared to be little understanding of the significance of the Cathedral, an assumption that a shiny modern one would be accepted and in short order replace the old in the hearts of the people of Christchurch.

The truth is different. People who were not Anglicans, not Christians, people who couldn't even muster enough interest in religion to oppose it as atheists, felt attachment to the Cathedral because it was there, it was grand and old and had always been there, as long as they and their parents and their grandparents remembered. It was a landmark, the rest of the city centre was described in relation to it, in the background of friends' photographs it announced the "where" more precisely than car regos and clothes revealed "when".

By the time everyone is re-settled the Anglicans will have formed allegiances to other church buildings and their congregations. Curiosity aside, will there be a pull to bring them to a new cathedral, one that has no place in their personal history? Will there be any actual point to replacement of the cardboard "temporary" cathedral with a much more expensive permanent one?

 

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