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.


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