Prime Minister Bill English said he very much welcomed the news the Christchurch Cathedral restoration would go ahead.

"I think it's so important for Christchurch to see that this symbol of the heart of their city is now going to become part of the future and not sit there as a destroyed relic of the past. It's going to be a fascinating project."

The Government had offered the Anglican Church $25 million toward the cost of the restoration but left it to the Synod to make the final decision.

English also announced in New Plymouth yesterday that it would put $7.5 million a year more into a fund for the restoration or earthquake strengthening of important community buildings such as art galleries and theatres and extend it to include churches. That would include churches which were now being used for other purposes.


English made the announcement at New Plymouth's historic Taranaki Cathedral Church of Stone Mary - the oldest stone church in New Zealand.

The church can no longer be used because it is earthquake prone and a $15 million revamp is being planned.

It had a colourful history, including providing shelter for those fighting in the Maori land wars in the area.

English said churches were as important a part of the heritage of a community as any other building, even to non church goers.

"Of course these days as our churches have emptied out to some extent, many of them are repurposed, they are filling other functions in a way that is incorporated into the fabric of our community."

That funding would still require the community and the organisation behind the strengthening project to foot two thirds of the cost between them.