The Auckland Council has made a $3 million grant to the Holy Trinity Cathedral at a time, says one councillor, when families are struggling to put food on the table.
The strategy and finance committee voted 10-6 yesterday to make the grant towards a $12 million redevelopment of the Anglican cathedral in Parnell.
The Dean of the cathedral, Jo Kelly-Moore, said the cathedral fulfilled a significant role in the life of Aucklanders.
She said the grant meant the project would happen because it took the $5.1 million pledged to $8.1 million.
The "Selwyn Vision" project involves building a new $4 million multi-functional Bishop Selwyn Chapel with capacity for 120 people, $4.5 million to restore the Holy Trinity Cathedral and St Mary's Church organs, other building and projects costs and $1 million contingency.
Most councillors supported the project.
Mayor Len Brown said the cathedral was at the heart of the spirit of Auckland, while councillor Chris Fletcher said it was not an elitist facility, but an accessible and affordable community facility.
Other councillors opposed the grant for different reasons.
Sharon Stewart said she could not support it while people in the community were struggling to pay rates and put food on the table.
Later, Ms Kelly-Moore responded to the food issue by saying the cathedral was part of the wider Anglican ministry that included the Auckland City Mission and a trust for vulnerable women and children.
Councillor Sandra Coney said it was a bad move for the council to be making an investment in a religious church facility and being seen to favour one particular group.
She asked councillors to consider "what we don't do because we have got no money", giving the examples of fixing vandalised graves at Waikumete Cemetery and buying land for parks and sports fields.
Councillor George Wood criticised the "back door" process where the grant was approved outside the normal budget process with public consultation.
Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Chris Darby, who sat through the committee meeting, said: "It always amazes me how councillors find excuses to shortcut due process to fund monument projects dear to heart."
In 2005, the former Auckland City Council made a $30,000 grant towards the $13 million upgrade of the St Patricks Catholic Cathedral.
It also spent $9.2 million upgrading the city-owned St Patrick's Square.