Thursday, April 18, 2024


It is likely not the right thing to do, to blog here about this and that around Anglican Communion traps, and say nothing about what is going on locally!

We have a long running story about the reinstatement of our Cathedral (in the Square), which has involved considerable twists and turns. That story is well told in this Newsroom article (unfortunately may be behind a paywall - though not at the point when I looked it up, 14 April 2024).

Ever since I became Bishop-elect (August, 2018) I have had considerable involvement in the unfolding story (not having had involvement before then, save for being a member of the 2017 Synod which voted for reinstatement.) My involvement has sometimes been stressful but mostly has been an amazing experience of working with incredibly able people and I have learned so much from doing so.

Recently, however, the Cathedral Reinstatement Project (as we call it) has faced a very specific challenge: how are we actually going to install a new foundation for the cathedral, in the light of some new knowledge - since we have been able to enter the inside of the cathedral, from March 2023 - about the ground conditions and the actual design of the foundations of the walls (which differ from plans drawn up in 1881)?

We spent about six months reassessing the situation, including a new timeline we need to plan for and our revised estimate of costs. Then, on Saturday 6 April 2024 we announced our revised situation, with an associated report by NZIER on the benefits of reinstating the Cathedral.

Our revised estimated cost for completing construction is $248m, which, after further fund-raising of $26m, and a contribution of $16m I hope we can agree to as a diocese, leaves a shortfall of $114m.

To descibe this as a difficult or challenging situation is an understatement!

Anyway, the week since has been stressful, including an interview on Friday which led to this article, headed (helpfully - thank you, Press), "We cannot do it alone." 

The week has also been supportive and prayerful - many lovely messages and many people, across our diocese and beyond, praying much! (Thank you everyone.)

There have also been many views put forward, about what we should have done, or should not have done, or should do.

What happens next? Let's see!

Can we avoid mothballing the cathedral? I hope so!

Watch this space ...


Mark Murphy said...

Thanks for the link to the longer article, Peter, which is a good in-depth history of the Cathedral rebuild saga.

But I'm still left a bit unsure as to why Synod shifted from supporting demolition and a modern rebuild, to choosing the most expensive option of reinstatement. Was it a change of heart, or a more pragmatic decision to avoid further legal costs?

It seems initially that the Diocese/Synod approached the matter in terms of - this is a church building (it is!) and we should make a decision based on church priorities and needs (indeed!). Regrettably, it seems to me, the church had lost ownership of this decision and project somewhere along the way. It now feels like we're waking up in a nightmare we can't back out of - building a hugely expensive structure at a time when our church members, families, and society in general are struggling to afford the very basics.

Yes, the cathedral is an icon - but what sort of symbol are we creating, what sort of face are we offering to the world?

Isn't the present cost blow put an opportunity to back out of the nightmare, and chose a design that is more congruent with the Gospel and our present needs?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark
We can lose sight of basic facts in this particular history.
Synod (I think in 2012) was presented with a view that reinstatement would be too expensive, thus agreeing with CPT that demolition should occur, and there was a straw vote on which "new" design we might prefer, but Synod in those early years after the quakes was not presented with anything like the 2017 Synod was presented (namely a then plausible financial pathway to reinstatement and thus en end to controversy and court cases.

Nevertheless I am convinced that, external funding not forthcoming at that point in time, the Synod in a formal decision circa 2012-2013 would have voted to demolish and to build a new cathedral, as far as possible within the constraints of insurance funds available. What Synod might have said about any proposal put to it that a decent new cathedral would cost, say, $20m more than insurance proceeds is simply an unknown matter.

So, in an important sense, when the whole of the matter at hand did go to Synod in 2017, Synod had a decision to make somewhat differently to 2012-ish. A genuine alternative, so to speak: demolish/new or funded pathway to reinstatement. And the decision was genuinely entered into because the vote, after stirring debate, was c. 53-48% - no meek submission to the proposal made.

What if we had voted to demolish and build new? That counterfactual has - obviously - not been made in reality, but I think there is a reasonable hypothesis that we would either (a) be still stuck with an undemolished cathedral, or (b) another attempt would have been made to ask us to agree to reinstatement. I say that because the Cathedral is a Heritage 1 building and - in my understanding - and this understanding contributed strongly to my own vote to support reinstatement - a Heritage 1 building with a funding pathway to reinstatement cannot be demolished. Support for my hypothesis actually lies close at hand: St James' church Lower Riccarton remains unfixed and undemolished in 2024, having been damaged in 2011. We would like the building/site sold. No one will take it on because the heritage departmnet of the CCC insists that it is a heritage building and must be fixed. Stalemate!

Mark Murphy said...

Thank you for this, Peter. I've just seen it. Very helpful. Oh what a pickle! Ongoing prayers for you all...