Christchurch's two prestigious clubs for business and professional people may be about to merge as a "superclub".
A member of the Christchurch Club, founded in 1856 as a "gentlemen's retreat", is canvassing members' views on a suggested amalgamation with its Canterbury Club rival that was established in 1872.
The member, a chartered accountant, is proposing the merger ahead of a special meeting next week called to discuss the club's future.
The club was forced to vacate its badly damaged heritage building at the corner of Latimer Square and Worcester St and sources have told The Star it is cashed up with between $9 million and $11 million available.
Plans for the club to rebuild on its current site will be revealed at the special meeting next Wednesday and members will be asked to vote on the committee's recommendations.
But the chartered accountant, has written to members suggesting the committee "have discussions with the Canterbury Club, negotiate acceptable terms of amalgamation and report back to a special meeting for the club to vote on acceptance or otherwise".
In his letter, obtained by The Star, he asks members who are unable to attend the special general meeting to appoint him as their proxy.
"Having settled our insurance and negotiated a heritage grant, it is now time for us to consider the future," he said.
While re-establishing on the Latimer Square site was an option, the chartered accountant said the club was likely to have to borrow money "to build our dream".
"Unlike the Canterbury Club we can cash up and walk away, which would be winding up our club which is certainly not what I have in mind," he said.
"I would favour taking all our money with us to their club, which would be a true amalgamation."
Christchurch Club president Ben Tothill declined to comment on the amalgamation proposal or the special meeting.
"I have nothing to say," he said.
But in a letter to members Mr Tothill said he was aware some members had "received a letter from a member who is seeking support for (a) merger with the Canterbury Club based upon a contention that the Christchurch Club does not have a viable future".
He said the committee welcomed debate on issues relating to the club's future.
Canterbury Club president Brent Stanley said several merger proposals between the clubs had surfaced over the decades.
Both clubs had "very cordial discussions" immediately after the earthquakes but there were "lots of imponderables".
"We've been fortunate to re-establish ourselves and are operating successfully," he said.
"It's really more of a matter for the Christchurch Club to discuss. At this stage we're looking very interestingly from the sidelines."
The Canterbury Club has about 700 members and the Christchurch Club is understood to have a similar membership.
City councillor Jamie Gough, who is a member of both clubs, said he would welcome a merged "superclub".
"The notion of a merger certainly isn't a new one but in light of the earthquakes there wouldn't be a more logical time to seriously consider it than now," he said.
Cr Gough said many businesspeople coming to Christchurch for the $40 billion rebuild would want to make contacts by joining a club and the Canterbury Club, with the only clubhouse would be likely to get "the lion's share of those new members".
"It's imperative for the Christchurch Club to be able to stay relevant in these times and I think not seriously considering the merger would be quite foolish," he said.