9 Sep 2017

Cathedral rebuild: 'there was an overwhelming 'yes'

5:32 pm on 9 September 2017

The crumbling ruins of the quake-damaged ChristChurch cathedral are to be saved, with the Anglican Synod this afternoon voting to reinstate the building.

Christchurch cathedral.

The cathedral's fate has been up in the air for nearly seven years Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The city's cathedral was devastated by the Christchurch earthquakes almost seven years ago, and has lain fenced off, propped up by metal supports, in the city's centre since.

The Anglican Synod had been debating the future of the city's cathedral over the last two days, with strong support behind each of the options on the table.

Those options were: reinstate, demolish and build something new, or gift the building to the government.

Reinstatement came with a $25 million funding pledge from the government, as well as $10m million from the Christchurch City Council (subject to public consultation).

The cost of a full rebuild is expected to be about $108 million.

St Christopher's in Christchurch where Synod met to decide the cathedral's fate.

St Christopher's in Christchurch where Synod met to decide the cathedral's fate. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

Media had been warned today's voting could take some time, but after only an hour, a 55 percent majority was reached in favour of rebuilding the cathedral.

Christchurch bishop Victoria Matthews said she was delighted a decision had been made.

She had previously supported demolition, but said today the government's offer of funding had changed her mind.

"It was a generous offer," she said.

"I told the Synod that whatever they decided I would back them 100 percent and that is what I will do."

To come to a decision, a majority had to be reached in all three houses that make up Synod - the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy, and the House of Laity.

Ms Matthews said there were many members of Synod who would have preferred the second option - demolition.

But she said the Synod's wishes were clear.

"I put it to the whole Synod and I said 'are you happy with this' and there was an overwhelming 'yes'," she said.

Ms Matthews also denied Synod was pressured into a rebuild by the government and the Christchurch City Council.

"Some did [feel pressure] ... but we could have said no ... we could have gone a completely different direction," she said.

She said she hoped a rebuild could be completed within ten years.

Lianne Dalziel and Nicky Wagner leave Synod today.

Lianne Dalziel, left, and Nicky Wagner leave Synod today. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was grateful the Anglican Church had decided to reinstate the cathedral as it prevented a lengthy court battle.

Some heritage groups had previously threatened legal action if the building was demolished.

Ms Dalziel said the cathedral would have been tied up in court for years if the Anglican Church decided on demolition, and that would have been too much for the city to bear.

"The worse thing about being in court is that we wouldn't know what the outcome was until the final appeal had been exhausted."

Ms Dalziel said today's decision enabled the city to "move forward".

She said public consultation on the $10 million pledge from the Christchurch City Council would be completed by the end of this year.

National Party spokesperson for the Christchurch rebuild, Nicky Wagner, said the decision to reinstate would make the city whole again.

Ms Wagner said she believed pledges of funding from the government and the Christchurch City Council helped the Synod choose the first option.

She said initial documentation required for the rebuild would be completed quickly.

"We'll get that underway, there's good will on both sides, we should be able to do that within days rather than weeks," she said.

She said she would commit to workers being on site by Christmas.

National Party leader Bill English said he welcomed the news.

"What they are doing there are building on their past to link the city to the future in a way that will be strongly symbolic for the whole country as well as the city of Christchurch.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs