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The Case for Restoring the Christchurch Cathedral

The Case for Restoring Rather than Destroying the Christchurch Cathedral

Jacqui McCabe
1st March 2013

Following the High Court (Justice Chisholm J) ruling that no further destruction of the Christchurch Cathedral should take place until further consideration and consultation between the Church Property Trustees (CPT), the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) and the Court, has taken place, the GCBT has endeavoured to work with the CPT and the Bishop, to reach an agreement on how the Cathedral can be restored.

The eleven point plan sent in a letter to the Bishop (see attached), was only one of our positive and constructive attempts to assist, all of which have been rejected.

The strong stand that the GCBT has taken towards saving and restoring the Cathedral has not been done because of some vague sense of nostalgia for past glories, but a fierce commitment to the history and heritage of Christchurch, which, as a result of a natural catastrophe, lies in ruins all around us.

We have lost so many of our iconic heritage buildings that it is critical that we strenuously defend those that are left, and the Cathedral stands as a stark and almost lone reminder of what was, and what could still be, an exceptional part of this city's, and indeed New Zealand's, cultural, religious and historic heritage. Its constant presence throws doubt on the quality of the opinion of those who said that the Cathedral was in imminent danger of collapse and shows that taking time over some demolition decisions can lead to more constructive alternatives being available.

The people of Christchurch have shown the world what resilient, courageous and caring citizens they are. Our social, economic and community needs as a city are enormous and we must of course, ensure that essential services such as housing, education, health and infrastructure are available and maintained. As part of its programme of work, the GCB Trust has been involved in helping to solve the problems faced by home owners in the TC3 zones and is working closely with a number of companies who are about to embark on a pilot programme of high quality but low cost social housing.

But future generations of Cantabrians will not thank us if we do not make every attempt possible to preserve the legacy of architectural, religious and cultural heritage that the Christchurch Cathedral so strongly represents.

We acknowledge the desire of Church leaders to meet the spiritual needs of their Anglican community and their wider mission objectives. However, we also believe these can be met through a restored Cathedral which contains and embodies much of our history and heritage. It is not a ruin, can be viably restored, and is uniquely positioned to be the 'spiritual home' of the city and province.

Independent reports from internationally reputable engineers, supported by the Church's own engineering advisers, show clearly that from an engineering point of view, the Cathedral can be restored. We therefore fervently hope that the Bishop and the CPT will agree to join with us to restore rather than replace the Cathedral.

As a result of further information received from engineers to the earthquake proofing done on the Cathedral in the 1990’s, The GCBTrust commissioned a further report from independent, internationally reputable engineers. This report confirmed that the restoration is both achievable and able to meet the highest standards of seismic strengthening required of a public building. It is supported by detailed drawings of the methodologies to be used to make safe and reconstruct the Cathedral with maximum retention of the existing building.

Their report, (see attached), shows that the full restoration of the Cathedral is:

• Feasible from a construction point of view.
• Capable of complying with all the requirements of the building code.
• Would satisfy all the health and safety requirements of CERA and Building Construction regulatory authorities.

Costings for these plans will be available within the next week or so.

Around the world there are many resources available to us to achieve the restoration of this unique heritage icon. All we have to do is to make the decision to restore it and the help will come. There could be no more fitting memorial to those who have died in this terrible tragedy than for the restoration of such a symbol of faith and hope as is represented by this proud Cathedral, the architect of which, George Gilbert Scott, is of international repute.

We will only get one chance to honour both the history of those who have gone before us and future generations of our city's citizens. We should not shirk our responsibility to seize it.


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