With the future of Christchurch Cathedral due to be decided in September, a third option has emerged. Christchurch’s Diocesan Synod will have the choice to donate the building, stricken by an earthquake in 2011, to the government and people of New Zealand, ensuring its future as a public space.

Under this arrangement church, authorities would have access to the building at Christmas and Easter and for other large services.

“We love and have always loved the cathedral building in the square,” the Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch, said in a statement on Aug. 14.

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Bishop Matthews said the diocese must be mindful of what it can afford to pay for restoring the cathedral.

“If the damage is worse than anticipated, or there is a fundraising shortfall, we would be in serious trouble even with the generous government offer,” she said. “We need to be good stewards. By [giving] the cathedral building to the government, it would be reinstated to its former glory and managed by them on behalf of all New Zealanders for use as a public space.”

Nicky Wagner, minister of Greater Christchurch Regeneration, said the new option showed that the church understood the importance of reaching a decision at synod. She added that the government does not know all the details of the proposal.

Wagner did not say whether the government wants the cathedral, should it be offered. The model for funding would “likely have to remain the same,” she said, with $90 million already earmarked to cover the main building and auxiliary. Repairing the steeple and turret will require more fundraising.

Lianne Dalziel, mayor of Christchurch, said she has “a lot of unanswered questions” about the offer, and requires more detail before she will comment.

Restoration campaigner Philip Burdon, who co-chairs the Greater Christchurch Buildings Trust, said he would like to see the cathedral restored “under the auspices of the Anglican Church.”

“However, if they are not prepared to do that, then it’s appropriate to [give] it to the crown and the people of New Zealand.”

Synod members will now consider three options before their meeting on Sept. 8-9:

  • Fully reinstating the cathedral, using a government grant and loan, a Christchurch City Council loan, and a Great Christchurch Buildings Trust fundraising pledge, alongside the cathedral insurance payout.
  • Building an inspiring, highly functional new cathedral in the square on the current site, incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral building, using the cathedral insurance payout.
  • Donating the cathedral to the government for the people of New Zealand.

John Martin

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