11 Dec 2017

'We shouldn't be propping up the Anglicans'

From Checkpoint, 5:43 pm on 11 December 2017

Hundreds of Christchurch residents have come out swinging against a proposed ratepayer-funded grant to help restore the city's Anglican cathedral.

The ChristChurch Cathedral was devastated by the Canterbury earthquakes almost seven years ago, and has lain desolate and broken in the city centre since.

In September, the Anglican Synod voted to restore the building, which came with various funding pledges, including a $10 million grant from the Christchurch City Council. 

But after public consultation, the council found the majority of residents did not believe ratepayers should foot part of the bill, with just over half of the 1063 people who made submissions against it.

Spreydon resident, Janet Begg, was among them, and she said the Christchurch City Council should not waste a cent of ratepayer's money on it.

"It's not one of the core functions of the Christchurch City Council ... we have far more important things to be doing," she said. "We are supposed to be a secular country and our rates should not be used to prop up the Anglicans."

The campaign to restore the cathedral, at a cost of $104m, already came with significant financial support, including a separate $25m pledge from the government.

The Greater Christchurch Building Trust pledged another $13.5m, and believed it could raise more money.

The Anglican Church's insurance proceeds, $42m, would also be used.

In October, the Christchurch City Council voted that its $10m contribution, if passed, would be raised through targeted rates.

Celia Hogan, who was a direct descendant of the city's first Anglican bishop, Henry Harper, did not think a small rates increase was too much to ask for.

"I think it's very affordable and very beneficial for our city ... it only equates to about 23 cents per week ... per ratepayer," she said.

"A lot of the anger that has been coming through in some of the submissions is probably deferred anger from some of the other rates rises, which [in some cases] have been quite extreme."

The council grant also had the backing of the New Zealand Stone Mason's Association, and its spokesperson, Paul Gautron, said it would give some stone masons a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"The chance to train apprentices, to give them the experience of working on a project like that, it's not something that happens on a regular basis [anywhere in the world]," he said. "It would be an honour for any stone mason to work on that building."

A Hearings Panel, made up of Christchurch's councillors and the mayor, Lianne Dalziel, will discuss the submissions at a meeting on Thursday.