A multi-million dollar insurance payout for the earthquake-crippled Christ Church Cathedral should be used to help fund the Anglican Church's temporary cardboard cathedral, a court heard today.

The legal row over the landmark Christchurch building has returned to the High Court, with the church seeking a decision over whether it can use $4 million of its insurance money to pay for the majority of the temporary cathedral costs, which is already under construction in the city.

It sought the clarification after a High Court hearing last year when Justice Lester Chisholm suggested in his judgement that it was illegal to do so and ordered a halt to the demolition of the stricken cathedral.

The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) took the neo-Gothic style cathedral's owner, the Church Property Trust (CPT), to court in October in a last-ditch legal bid to have it repaired.


The cathedral was badly damaged in the fatal February 22, 2011 quake, which snapped its spire.

Its damaged state prompted the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to issue a section 38 unsafe building notice, which demanded urgent action.

Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews announced plans to deconstruct the cathedral to a safe level of 2-3 metres above the ground last year.

The decision sparked public protests and the GCBT, led by former MP Jim Anderton, battled to save the landmark city centre building.

They sought a declaratory court judgment to determine whether the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch's decision to deconstruct breached an Act of Parliament designed to protect church buildings.

Justice Chisholm said the CPT, while having to make a difficult and complex decision under tight time pressures, was wrong to think its cathedral trust was there only for the advancement of religion and maintenance of the ecclesiastical institution, not particular buildings.

Today, lawyer for the CPT, Jared Ormsby argued that since the parish paid for the church's insurance policy, which covered all of its assets, as well as material damage, contents and fixtures, the pay-out should be for the whole parish - not just one particular building.

He said the case centred around two fundamental questions: whether the insurance money should only be used for the cathedral, and whether a cathedral is a simply a building or one that includes "wider spiritual elements and dimensions".

When members of the congregation gave their offertories, he said there was no doubt in their minds that it was for "the wider purposes of the church".

And the money is held "on wider terms", Mr Ormsby said.

"The funds are held not only for the business of the cathedral, but for the purposes of the cathedral parish."

The hearing, before Justice Graham Panckhurst, continues and is expected to conclude tomorrow.