Christchurch demolition halted

23 November 2012

By a staff reporter

THE High Court in New Zealand has halted the demolition of Christchurch Cathedral, which was damaged after an earthquake in February last year. Justice Lester Chisholm said that the demolition should stop until a judicial review of the decision to deconstruct the cathedral had taken place.

The Great Christchurch Build-ings Trust (GCBT) went to the High Court last month, arguing that, under a 2003 Act, the diocese was obliged to repair and maintain the cathedral. Members of the trust have presented their own reports from engineers, which suggest that the cathedral could be rebuilt safely.

The Church Property Trust (CPT), which owns the cathedral, decided in March to bring the building down to a level of two to three metres, in accordance with a notice from the earthquake recovery authority. A temporary cardboard cathedral is already under construction (News, 20 July), and an architect has been appointed to draw up plans for a permanent replacement cathedral.

In a written judgment, Justice Chisholm said that the cathedral does not have to be restored, legally, to its original form. "Unless the terms of the cathedral trust are varied, either the structure that remains will have to be repaired, or it will have to be replaced by another cathedral. While there must be a cathedral on the site, it does not necessarily have to replicate the cathedral as it stood before the earthquakes occurred."

But he agreed to the review. His ruling requires the CPT formally to commit to rebuilding the cathedral in the same space.

The Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, said that the Church must consider all aspects of the decision, but that it was committed to building a new cathedral on the site.

A spokeswoman for the CPT said on Tuesday that it had requested its engineers, and other professionals, to review the information presented by the GCBT to the court.


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