Brownlee tells council 'to shape up'

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has told the Christchurch City Council to "get its own house in order" as it seeks a halt to demolition of Christchurch Cathedral.

The city council yesterday reacted to community unrest about the demolition of the quake-damaged landmark by voting 10-4 to ask for an immediate pause "to enable deeper and more open consideration of restoration options".

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, Cr and former cathedral dean Peter Beck and Crs Ngaire Button and Sue Wells voted against the move.

The council will now write to the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, which is responsible for the cathedral, outlining its position, and will seek a meeting with Bishop Victoria Matthews on the cathedral's future.

Partial demolition is already under way after the diocese stated the cathedral was so badly damaged it must be pulled down to a "safe" level of 2m to 3m so heritage items and taonga can be retrieved.

Anti-demolition campaigners were celebrating the council's move yesterday, but Mr Brownlee said everyone involved needed to "draw a breath", put emotions to one side "and ask serious questions about what you do with such a damaged building".

He urged the council to "get its own house in order" first, and look at what it was doing to make quake-damaged social housing in the city fit to occupy again.

"The council are very good at telling everyone else what to do.

They need to shape up a little bit and get serious about their representation [of the city]," he said.

Restore Christchurch Cathedral Group spokesman Mark Belton said the council's move reflected the passion Christchurch residents had for seeing the cathedral restored.

It could spur the Government to use its powers to stop the demolition, Mr Belton said.

But Mr Brownlee said he felt the diocese had handled itself appropriately.

"No-one is going in there with a wrecking ball or a bulldozer. It's being done in a sensitive fashion." For all the opposition to the deconstruction, Mr Brownlee said he had not seen a single restoration plan that did not have a "substantial demolition" in it.

The diocese said deconstruction of the cathedral was already halted until around mid-June, but there was still a requirement to make it safe.

Further quakes posed a risk to workers on the site.

"Even the ongoing demolition of buildings around the cathedral is causing the ground to shake and more damage to occur," a spokesman said.

It seems the under-fire councillors were kept in the dark about yesterday's announcement that a high-flying Auckland "Mr Fix-it" has been headhunted to oversee the $2.2 billion infrastructure rebuilding programme.

They only learnt of the appointment of Mark Ford, who masterminded Auckland's Super City campaign, as the independent chairman of the Client Governance Group who will manage the repair and replacement of their city's infrastructure - drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and roading - during a council meeting lunch break.

A spokesman for Mr Brownlee's office said: "The council's Kevin Locke [capital programme general manager] is on the Client Governance Group board and he certainly knew that Mark Ford was being appointed.

"If the city council didn't have that knowledge, then it sounds like an internal breakdown."

 

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