Judgment: ChristChurch Cathedral Demolition May Continue
High Court of New Zealand
30 May 2014
THE GREAT CHRISTCHURCH BUILDINGS TRUST v THE CHURCH PROPERTY TRUSTEES and CANTERBURY EARTHQUAKE RECOVERY AUTHORITY (CIV-2012-409-001761)
THE CHURCH PROPERTY TRUSTEES v ATTORNEY-GENERAL and THE GREAT CHRISTCHURCH BUILDINGS TRUST
 NZHC 1182
This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s judgment. It does not comprise part of the reasons for that judgment. The full judgment with reasons is the only authoritative document. The full text of the judgment and reasons can be found at https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/from/decisions/judgments.html
In March 2012 the Church Property Trustees (CPT) resolved to deconstruct the Cathedral down to a level of two to three metres. The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust applied to judicially review that decision. Chisholm J found that the CPT held the Cathedral on terms of trust which required them to maintain a cathedral on the site, not necessarily the Cathedral as it was before the earthquakes. However, he ordered a stay on deconstruction until the CPT committed to rebuild a cathedral of whatever design.
In September 2013 the CPT resolved to deconstruct the old Cathedral and construct a new cathedral of contemporary design. The CPT requested the Court to lift the stay.
The stay has been lifted in this judgment. The Court concluded that it was for the opposer, the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, to establish grounds which justified retention of the stay.
The Court found:
• CPT has committed to the construction of a new cathedral and hence the original justification for a stay no longer existed.
• CPT gave fair consideration to relevant issues before reaching its decision to deconstruct and build a new contemporary cathedral.
• There was no evidence that improper motive, dishonest of intention or conflict of interest affected the CPT’s decision.
• The merits of the decision to rebuild in a contemporary design was a matter for the CPT, not the Court. This Court’s role was limited to ensuring that the decision was reached after fair consideration and not for improper reasons. Because this test was met, there were no grounds to judicially review the CPT decision.
In the second proceeding the CPT sought
directions concerning proposed arrangements to restore over
$4 m to the Cathedral Trust. This sum, being part of the
insurance proceeds received for the damage to the old
Cathedral, was improperly applied to construction of the
Transitional Cathedral. The judgment contains orders
concerning a resumed hearing of CPT’s application seeking
directions and for relief against liability in relation to
misapplication of the insurance proceeds.