for The Press
ChristChurch Cathedral, the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, Church
Property Trustees (CPT) and the wider community, the damage to the
ChristChurch Cathedral from the Canterbury earthquakes is heart breaking.
The ChristChurch Cathedral was a place of enormous spiritual significance
and heritage for the Anglican Diocese. Having to make decisions on the
future of the Cathedral is one of the hardest challenges CPT has ever had
to face. Since February 2011, the Diocese has suffered total loss or damage
to 248 of its 280 parish and commercial properties.
CPT holds and administers the property and funds of the Anglican Diocese
of Christchurch, which stretches from Hanmer Springs in the north to
Waimate, Twizel and Haast in the south, and its parishes. Membership of
CPT comprises the Bishop Victoria Matthews and eight trustees, who are
members of the Church elected by the Synod. Synod is the governing body
of the Christchurch Diocese where reports are received to allow
representatives to debate and vote on key Diocesan issues.
Church Property Trustees make decisions by vote and while the Bishop
chairs the meetings, she neither has veto nor does she usually cast a
vote. It is usual to have unanimity in the voting. This means no one
person can decide on the fate of the Cathedral nor can Bishop Victoria
Mathews exercise any “personal agenda”, as she has been accused of, to
stop the reinstatement of the Cathedral.
For six years CPT has been striving tirelessly to find a workable
solution on the future of the Cathedral and has always said that it is
committed to a cathedral in the Square. It shares the frustration many
feel over the lack of progress.
There has been recent commentary that the Church and CPT have somehow
frustrated recent negotiations with the Government. In an opinion piece
published by The Press last week, Philip Burdon, representing the Great
Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), went so far as to say: “We have all
been victims of sham negotiations and that the private ambition of the
relevant Church leadership has always been to oppose restoration of the
Cathedral.” Mr Burdon is not correct. The Trustees were fully
committed to good faith engagement with the Government and rescinded
CPT’s standing resolution to deconstruct the Cathedral.
This earlier key decision made a commitment to building a contemporary
cathedral in the Square. The decision had been based on numerous
engineering, costing, risk and other professional evaluations for which
CPT sought advice for different options. All key reports were made
The decision to build a contemporary cathedral in the Square was
challenged in the courts by GCBT and led to three years of CPT defending
its decision. During this time, in May 2013, CPT asked the public which
design options for ChristChurch Cathedral it would prefer. More than 800
people attended public forums, the website had more than 14,000 unique
visitors, and more than 3,800 votes and comments were received. A
contemporary design for the future cathedral was favoured by respondents.
In June 2014, the High Court lifted the stay it issued in November 2012
on deconstruction of the Cathedral. This meant CPT could continue with
its plan to progress the idea of building a contemporary cathedral in the
Square. Although there would be significant consenting issues, a
beautiful and highly functional inspirational and contemporary cathedral,
incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral, could be
built within the $40 million of cathedral insurance funds then available.
However, in May 2015 CPT’s decision to build a contemporary cathedral was
paused following a request from the GCBT to further discuss engineering
and costs of a rebuild. At that meeting, GCBT’s experts agreed with CPT’s
advice that the approximate cost of a rebuild would be approximately $100
million (not $67 million as GCBT had been publicly claiming), that base
isolation is preferable, and the rebuild project would take approximately
CPT approached the government and suggested it might like to become
involved. The Crown decided to appoint Miriam Dean QC to assess the
situation. In a previous conversation with Minister Brownlee, the Bishop
and the Trustees present explained very clearly that they believed CPT
might do well to move towards a compromise – a build of old and new
materials despite the Diocese and CPT stating it had a preference for a
contemporary build. The Trustees were open to reinstatement as long as
when completed the project did not leave the Diocese or CPT in debt. In
particular, it was highlighted that CPT could only commit $30 million as
it needed significant endowments to pay for the maintenance of such an
expensive building and also to cover the cost of full replacement
insurance, which is estimated at up to $360k a year.
In January 2016, CPT’s decision to build a contemporary cathedral was
again paused, following an approach from the Government to review the
feasibility of reinstatement. As mentioned, CPT committed to good faith
engagement and rescinded its standing resolution to deconstruct the
Cathedral. The Government announced a Cathedral Working Group, however
its appointment and the agreement to the Terms of Reference was delayed
for several months due to the Minister’s heavy schedule. CPT was then
concerned about the delay in the timing as it had committed to making an
announcement about a way forward by the end of April 2016; in fact that
was when the working group was confirmed by the Crown. The
Cathedral Working Group’s report confirmed CPT’s advice that the cost of
reinstatement (rebuild) was approximately $104 million (plus $4 million
fundraising costs), base isolation is preferable, and reinstatement would
take approximately seven years.
CPT then agreed to a Government request to negotiate a funding and delivery
model to reinstate the Cathedral. In late December 2016, CPT believed
that an agreement was in place and were ready to sign. However in
November we had the Kaikoura 7.8 earthquake and the following month the
Prime Minister resigned. These and other developments that occurred
may have led those representing the Crown to re-assess their offer. Hence
on 21 December 2016, the offer on the table was changed to an entirely
different document – a Statement of Principles.
This brings us to the present, with an offer of a grant from the Crown of
$10 million and a loan of $15 million towards potential reinstatement.
CPT has clearly said that to leave a Bishop and Diocese with a $15
million loan is unacceptable.
More importantly there is the need to fundraise as much as a further $56
million in order to complete the project of reinstatement. The policy
being followed for all of the buildings in Trust with CPT is that the
money must be in hand before the repair or build begins.
Fund-raising efforts by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust
report $15 million intentions, but no pledges have been presented or
seen. In the meantime, CPT continues to assess the Government’s offer.
Some people have argued that CPT has the means to fund the shortfall and
fund the insurance and running costs of the reinstated Cathedral. But,
CPT simply cannot do this as it holds no assets in its own right. It
holds the assets in trust for the Diocesan and parish mission and
ministry – and must ensure that any potential reinstatement does not
weaken the wider mission of the church.
GCBT claims that opinion polls consistently supported reinstatement. This
is not the case as proven in the consultation undertaken in 2013.
However, to give us up-to-date information, CPT has engaged an independent
research firm to complete a community survey to determine Christchurch
residents’ opinion on reinstatement and their appetite to contribute to
fundraising. Once the survey results are known they will be made
CPT anticipates soon being able to give the government an answer to its
Holley is the General Manager of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s
Church Property Trustees.
Anyone reading The Press in Christchurch will have read Letters to The Editor from me under the title 'Father Ron Smith', giving my opinion about the situation of our Cathedral in The Square.
After Philip Burden's recent opinion piece delivered by the Press, I have written 2 more Letters to the Editor setting what I see as the more correct position concerning the CPT's action on this matter. I expressed my clear opinion that the delay in further action on the Cathedral - as being the direct fault - not of the Bishop and CPT, but rather that of the Greater Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT) of which Mr. Burdon happens to be the most outs[poken member. I mentioned that, had it not been for the persistent litigation brought by the GCBT against the Diocese - preventing the CPT from carrying out the wishes of the Diocesan Synod to demolish the Cathedral - the site would now have been well and truly cleared with a new purpose-built, earthquake proofed Cathedral in the middle of our City
I suggested to the Editor in my first letter that there might have been a subtle prejudice on the part of The Press against the Anglican Church with the publication of Burden's article. I suspect that was why neither that letter nor a follow-up letter by me, was published.
A cannot but think that The Press is biased in this matter!
Perhaps the whole sorry saga proves St Paul's wisdom : unequal yolk no good.
Have an eggsellent Easter, by the way.
Thank God The Press has now actually published the excellent article from the CPT on the real story of the delay to the building of our new Cathedral. I must now withdraw my accusation of 'Press bias'. Mea Culpa!
Well spotted Brian; I ended up with yolk on my face. His yoke would have been easy, had the diocese been less accommodating to outsiders.
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