24 Dec 2015

Cathedral rebuild advocate to contribute $1 million

11:32 am on 24 December 2015

An advocate for the restoration of the Christchurch cathedral says he will personally put $1 million toward the project.

Christchurch cathedral.

Christ Church Cathedral Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

An independent report has found the quake-damaged cathedral could be restored at a cost of $105 million.

Former cabinet minister and Great Christchurch Buildings Trust co-chair Philip Burdon said the money will come from a mix of insurance payouts with the residual $60 million from private fund-raising.

He himself had committed $1 million and he's confident others will contribute, he said.

Mr Burdon said the trust would also accept any government funding.

The Anglican Church said yesterday it would continue to talk to the government about the challenges of safety and cost, through a new working group.

Earthquake Recovery Minister had left the door open to the possibility of taxpayers money being spent reinstating the cathedral.

The government had not yet come to a position on whether it would contribute to the cost and more work needed to be done to nail down a final figure, Mr Brownlee said.

"There are various ways that might be reduced...but it really does challenge those that want to see the cathedral remain in a restored state to come to the party with some of that fundraising."

The cathedral's owners, the Anglican Church, had previously put the cost of restoring it as high as $221m and said there was no hope of ever raising that much money.

Heritage advocates have always said it could be done for less and the government commissioned report has confirmed this.

Bishop Victoria Matthews and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee at today's announcement

Bishop Victoria Matthews and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee at Wednesday's announcement. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Yesterday Bishop Matthews said she had always been open to the idea of reinstating the building.

"We never said it loudly because we didn't want it to look as if we were going out expecting someone to build our building for us, but we've said it all along - if someone wants to write a huge cheque, and we are talking about $75 million, and we've got probably $30 million to put into it from insurance, then we would look at that very seriously."

The $105 million price tag on a restored cathedral was only a third of what was being spent on repairing the Arts Centre, said Restore Christ Church Cathedral Group co-chairperson Mark Belton.

He was confident the money could be raised.

"There is so much energy in New Zealand for this and obviously in Christchurch and also around the world that I'm confident the support will be found.

"And it will be a project that will give the city a sense of recovery and hope again which is so important for a lot of people in this city."

The government's report said if the cathedral cannot be reinstated then building a new church at a cost of $66m was also an option.

Restore Christ Church Cathedral's Mark Belton

Restore Christ Church Cathedral's Mark Belton Photo: RNZ/ Conan Young

That would not be acceptable as replacing what was there before was important to the people of Christchurch, said Mr Belton.

"It's recovering the memory of the city and the memory of the founders of this city. That is hugely important.

"It is a building more than any other that is part of the identity of this city. So any alternative building just doesn't do that."

The report estimates a full restoration of the church would take six years.

Dean of Christchurch Peter Beck

Dean of Christchurch Peter Beck Photo: RNZ/ Conan Young

One person who would be happy to wait that long to see the cathedral reinstated is former Anglican Dean of Christchurch Peter Beck.

"Many cathedrals have taken hundreds of years to build. I think once we're on the way and we've got an idea of where we're going I think it can take however long it takes to do and that's fine.

"Will I see it before I finally depart this mortal coil - I hope so. I'd love to be inside the new cathedral and celebrate its re-opening."

An announcement on whether the cathedral is to be demolished and built anew or reinstated, is expected in April.

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