'Gothic pile' or 'heart of the city'? Cantabrians split on repairing Christ Church Cathedral

6:48 am on 9 April 2024

The cost to restore the Christ Church Cathedral has jumped to $248 million. Photo: supplied

A "gothic pile" or an icon of Christchurch that needs to be restored no matter the cost?

The Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Trust says the cost to restore the quake-damaged building has jumped by more than $100 million, to $248m.

The trust needs another $30 million by August or the project will be mothballed.

RNZ headed into central Christchurch to gauge whether people are happy for more money to go towards the project or want it put on hold.

Sitting in the sun in Cathedral Square, Jeremy Newbrook said the restoration was a mistake.

Jeremy Newbrook says the Christ Church Cathedral was a wreck after the earthquakes, and the restoration should never have been started.

Jeremy Newbrook says the cathedral is "just a gothic pile". Photo: RNZ / Rachel Graham

"As far as I'm concerned they should never had started, it is just a gothic pile. If it's a wreck it's a wreck, and get rid of it."

Ric Hurst said he never supported the planned restoration, and agreed with the Anglican Church's initial plan to build something new.

"It's a shame they didn't put a stop to it at the start. It just costs so much money for ratepayers who don't have those funds sitting around.

"When the church said they didn't want to pay for the repairs at that point we should have scrapped it, and just kept it as a memorial. Knocked it down to a safe position and kept it as a memorial."

Lyn Dumbleton also liked the idea of making the building safe post-earthquake and leaving it as a memorial, but said it was now too late to stop the work.

"Goodness knows where that money is coming from but they've got to this point, surely we've got to carry on. But at a terrible cost, I agree.

"We can't have this eyesore for another 20 years, it has got to be finished."

Lyn Dumbleton said so much money has now been spent on the Cathedral that the project must be finished.

Lyn Dumbleton says the cathedral restoration has "got to be finished". Photo: RNZ / Rachel Graham

Others said the cathedral was still an icon for the city and needed to be restored.

Ryan Croy was among them.

"I think they should definitely carry on. It's a real shame that you have a big project that's gone so far, publicly announced and everyone behind it, and then all of a sudden to be told it's going to stop after so many years. It seems crazy," he said.

"It would be a shame to see it stop. It's the heart of the city, we want to be proud of it."

Trina Wood was looking forward to the day she could take her children up the cathedral spire, like she did as a child.

"It's a part of Christchurch, so it should be rebuilt. But if the funding is not there I don't know what to do. Unfortunately I don't have the money to do it."

The trust has taken its plea to the government and to the Christchurch City Council.

In a statement, Finance Minister Nicola Willis said she acknowledged it was a difficult situation, but the project had not been identified as a priority for additional taxpayer funding.

Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger said any decision on funding would have to go to the public and the council.

He said the council's chief financial officer would look into options, and the council would need to do more research before making any decision.

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