Church adamant cathedral needs to be demolished

10:45 pm on 10 July 2012

The Anglican Church says a new plan for how ChristChurch Cathedral can be safely restored changes nothing and the building should be demolished as a matter of urgency.

The church in Cathedral Square was badly damaged during the devastating earthquake in Christchurch in February 2011 and work has begun to deconstruct the building after its owner, the Anglican Diocese, decided it had no other option due to safety concerns.

The move has sparked outrage from heritage groups and some residents, who believe more restoration options need to be considered.

A new, independent report commissioned by heritage group the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust says the central city church can be restored using a tunnel to protect workers.

The report by three structural engineers says the building can be saved through the use of a tunnel that would keep workers in a 'safe haven' from falling masonry. The plan involves replicating an underground mine from where the building can be braced and strengthened.

One of the engineers, Associate Professor Stefano Pampanin, says the use of the tunnel represents a breakthrough in the thinking so far around whether or not the cathedral can be restored.

He says it would allow workers to progressively repair and strengthen beams and columns from the inside in complete safety.

Another of the report's engineers, Adam Thornton, told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Tuesday that large parts of the cathedral are still in good shape and can be saved.

But the acting Dean of ChristChurch Cathedral says the Anglican Church can't justify the cost of returning the building to its former glory - estimated to be in excess of $100 million.

Lynda Patterson says considerable work has already been undertaken to look at how the cathedral could be saved - including by the safe haven method - but it was discounted.

"I think we can build an enormously inspirational building - a beautiful building - and a building which helps inspire people and remind them of the presence of God in the city. I think we can do it for substantially less than $100 million."

Lynda Patterson says the cathedral needs to be demolished as soon as possible so that important items can be saved from further exposure to the elements.

Large stones have fallen off the building, smashing into the visitors centre and rolling down the stairs towards the basement, she says.

Govt has put demolition on hold, says trust

The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust says the Government has put the demolition of the cathedral on hold while it considers the structural engineers' report.

The trust is co-chaired by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon.

Mr Anderton says he was given an undertaking by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee that the demolition would suspended while the report is looked at.

The former MP for the Christchurch electorate of Wigram and mayoral candidate says Mr Brownlee's office has had the report for the past two weeks.

Mr Anderton told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Tuesday the cathedral's roof is intact and holding up the walls which, according to the engineers, will be safe once braced.

He is confident the Government and the Anglican Church will give the report the consideration it deserves before any final decisions are taken on the cathedral's future.