Halt on demolition angers minister

By Jarrod Booker

Partial demolition of the Christchurch Cathedral is already underway and a temporary "cardboard cathedral" (above) has been planned. Photo / Simon Baker
Partial demolition of the Christchurch Cathedral is already underway and a temporary "cardboard cathedral" (above) has been planned. Photo / Simon Baker

Council needs to focus on housing damaged in quake, says Brownlee.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has told the Christchurch City Council to "get its own house in order" as it seeks a halt to demolition of Christchurch Cathedral.

The city council yesterday reacted to community unrest about the demolition of the quake-damaged landmark by voting to ask for an immediate pause "to enable deeper and more open consideration of restoration options".

The council will now write to the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, which is responsible for the cathedral, outlining its position, and will seek a meeting with Bishop Victoria Matthews on the cathedral's future.

Partial demolition is already under way after the diocese stated the cathedral is so badly damaged that it must be pulled down to a "safe" level of 2m to 3m so heritage items and taonga can be retrieved.

Anti-demolition campaigners were celebrating the council's move yesterday, but Mr Brownlee said everyone involved needed to "draw a breath", put emotions to one side "and ask serious questions about what you do with such a damaged building".

He urged the council to "get its own house in order" first, and look at what it was doing to make quake-damaged social housing in the city fit to occupy again.

"The council are very good at telling everyone else what to do. They need to shape up a little bit and get serious about their representation [of the city]," Mr Brownlee said.

Restore Christchurch Cathedral Group spokesman Mark Belton said the council's move reflected the passion Christchurch residents had for seeing the cathedral restored.

It could spur the Government to use its powers to stop the demolition, Mr Belton said.

But Mr Brownlee said he felt the diocese had handled itself appropriately.

"No one is going in there with a wrecking ball or a bulldozer. It's being done in a sensitive fashion."

For all the opposition to the deconstruction, Mr Brownlee said he had not seen a single restoration plan that did not have a "substantial demo-lition" in it.

The diocese said deconstruction of the cathedral was already halted until around mid-June, but there was still a requirement upon it to make the building safe. Further quakes posed a risk to workers on the site.

"Even the ongoing demolition of buildings around the cathedral is causing the ground to shake and more damage to occur to the cathedral," a spokesperson said.

"The main priorities with the cathedral ... are safety and the safe retrieval of heritage items and taonga."

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker, who voted against the council resolution for a pause, said he felt it was time to "move on from the beautiful old cathedral".

A "cardboard cathedral" has been planned as a temporary replacement.

- NZ Herald

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