The future of the partially-demolished earthquake-ravaged cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, remains uncertain after an expected pre-Christmas announcement was delayed.
Cathedral and diocesan officials
had wanted to demolish the remains of the building, which was severely
damaged in the 2011 earthquake, and build a new cathedral.
But a series
of legal and political challenges followed from opponents who are
pushing for the previous building to be effectively restored.
In January, a New Zealand government-appointed mediator, Miriam Dean QC, said that restoration work could lead to a new building
which was “indistinguishable” from the one that was all-but destroyed
by the earthquake.
But she said that the “costly and risky project”
would be significantly more expensive and take much longer to build than
a contemporary replacement.
The cost of reinstatement had been estimated at $105 million New
Zealand Dollars (approximately £58.9 million GBP), with work set to take
six or seven years.
In contrast, the cost of building a completely new
cathedral has been estimated at costing up to $66 million New Zealand
Dollars (approximately £37 million GBP).
Following the release of Dean report, confidential talks took place
between government officials and the Church Property Trustees; leading
to the creation of a Cathedral Working Group
in June “to investigate whether the issues of cost and safety outlined
in the report are able to be addressed in order to reinstate
Christchurch Cathedral as it appeared prior to the earthquakes.”
The working group presented “non-binding” proposals to the government
and church officials last month and a public announcement about the
future was expected before Christmas.
“We came so close and I will always be deeply grateful for the
sacrificial contribution of the Cathedral Working Group, which was
Government appointed; the staff of Church Property Trustees and the
Church Property Trustees themselves,” Bishop Victoria Matthews said in a
Christmas message to her diocese. “. . . In a sentence: we almost got
there, and earlier this week we did think we had arrived.
“We will now have a break over Christmas and decide where and how to
proceed in the later part of January. Please pray for all involved in
this matter thus far.”
In a joint statement with the Church Property Trustees, Bishop
Matthews said that she was “greatly saddened” that “the much-anticipated
announcement on the future of the reinstatement of the damaged
Christchurch Cathedral will not go ahead before Christmas, as hoped.”
The statement said that Bishop Matthews “said 48 hours ago [that] she
and Church Property Trustees were sure there would be a positive
announcement in this week before Christmas.”
Bishop Matthews said: “The Trustees will keep working towards a
resolution in the new year. I can assure people that there will be a
Cathedral in the Square at the heart of our city.
Since August 2013, the cathedral congregation have been worshipping in an award-winning pioneering “cardboard cathedral”.