Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Christchurch wizard launches campaign to save Cathedral

The Wizard of Christchurch says the partial demolition of the city's Cathedral is an 'an unforgivable act of barbarism'. Photo / Kurt Bayer
The Wizard of Christchurch says the partial demolition of the city's Cathedral is an 'an unforgivable act of barbarism'. Photo / Kurt Bayer

The Wizard of Christchurch today launched a campaign to save his beloved Christ Church Cathedral from demolition.

He has vowed to cast spells, stage protests, gather petition signatures, and even take his crusade to Washington in a bid to convince Anglican church authorities to reconsider their decision to bring the landmark building down.

Ian Brackenbury Channell, 79, has performed in Christchurch's Cathedral Square for decades and was distraught by the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch's decision to "deconstruct" the quake-crippled building earlier this month.

He described the move as "an unforgivable act of barbarism".

Speaking outside the Canterbury Museum today, the Wizard unveiled his strategy to conserve the "spiritual and tourism home" of Christchurch.

"If we knock down the cathedral, not only do we lose our soul, but we will be seen in the future as monstrous, vulgar, barbarians," he said today.

The Wizard has splashed out $3500 of his own money for a half-page advertisement, which will appear in a Christchurch newspaper tomorrow, to vent his views.

The move is a response to a recent advert posted in the same publication by the Anglican church which included photographs of the damaged building.

But the Wizard's advert features pictures that shows the cathedral from other angles where the building is largely intact.

"The magnificent centrepiece of our city appears to be in surprisingly good shape," he writes.

"Most of the serious damage is around the west wall and tower, yet these were the only views of the cathedral shown in the photos in the bishop's advertisement."

In the advert, the wizard calls on Bishop Victoria Matthews to release the engineering reports she says shows the cathedral suffering major damage in the December 23 quake.

And he wants to know why the church is refusing to accept fundraising offers from all over the world.

"Secrecy and working up irrational fear and panic are often the weapons used by people desperate to have their own way," he states.

"The church authorities must want to destroy the cathedral. The real tragedy is that they don't even have to. They could simply make over ownership to the people of Christchurch. The mayor has indicated that the CCC (Christchurch City Council) is open to the suggestion.

"Then, when sanity prevails again, the reconstructed building could be reconsecrated."

The wizard goes on to implore people to go to Cathedral Square on Saturday morning at 10am where he will be collecting signatures for the Iconic Heritage Group's petition.

In Christchurch Square on Saturday morning, he has also vowed to cast a 'gothic revival' spell aimed at stopping "the people who are determined to demolish the ultimate symbol of our city as soon as possible."

"What they (the church) are doing is desecration .... and they need to be stopped."

The cathedral has been extensively damaged in the earthquakes over the last 18 months, with its spire snapping in half during the fatal 6.3-magnitude quake of February 22, 2011.

Ongoing shakes have caused further damage to the building, according to the Anglican church.

Rev Matthews has said it would cost more than $100m to repair the building, while other experts have said it could be done for as little as $20m.

The 131-year-old cathedral withstood violent earthquakes in 1881, 1888, 1922, 1901 and even September 4 last year.

The Wizard says it is locals' duty to try to save the cathedral and has won support from the Christchurch Civic Trust.

Chairman Neil Roberts said: "The trust supports any attempt at retaining the building and we back what (the wizard) is trying to do.

"It is the number one heritage building in Christchurch and every effort should be made to retain it."

And if the Wizard's local actions don't work, he has vowed to take the fight to Capitol Hill.

"Our ambassador to the United States is a very good friend of mine, Mike Moore, who has been bugging me to go for years," he says.

"That's the next step and I'm prepared to go to Washington to speak about this, it's that important. The war is on."


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