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NZ cathedral demolition causes mixed reaction

08 March 2012

by a staff reporter

CHRISTCHURCH Cathedral, in New Zealand, is to be demolished to a “safe height” of between two and three metres (News, 4 November 2011).

The cathedral lost its belltower and rose window in the earthquake in February 2011, which killed 181 people (News, 25 February, 11 March 2011). The cathedral was further dam­aged in a series of earthquakes that occurred just before Christmas. The Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, said that it was now a “dangerous building that needs to be made safe”.

Bishop Matthews promised this week that the demolition would be carried out sensitively. “The cathed­ral will be deconstructed with the utmost care and respect, while at the same time protecting the trea­sures within its walls: there will be no bulldozers or wrecking balls on the job.” Heritage items would be carefully removed.

The decision to demolish the 130-year-old cathedral has been greeted with outrage by many, including some city councillors. It is to be the subject of a TV debate next week, although the Anglican Church has declined to take part.

The Mayor of the city, Bob Parker, described the decision as “heart­breaking”. He has demanded to see the reports, prepared by structural engineers, which informed the de­cision to demolish. Bishop Matthews has declined to release the reports.

In a prepared statement announc­ing the demolition, she said: “I have relayed to you the decision of the Cathedral Project Group, which . . . has the delegated authority to make recommendations about the future of the cathedral to the cathedral Chapter, CPT [Church Property Trust], and Standing Committee.

“It is now up to all of us to show that we are the living cathedral of Christchurch.”and that we carry within us, and live out, the gospel of Jesus Christ, wherever we go, and wherever we are.” She admitted that cost had been a factor, too. A shortfall of $20- to $30-million has been predicted across the diocese.

The Earthquake Recovery Min­ister, Gerry Brownlee, praised the decision. The NZ Historic Places Trust said that it was disappointed.

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