Bowl it over, or build it back up? Remove or restore? Six years on, the fate of Christchurch Cathedral is dividing the city.
Philip Burdon believes there is one ‘principal obstacle’ to realising his vision of a restored Christchurch Cathedral - Bishop Victoria Matthews and what he perceives as her ‘determination to demolish’ the building.
Burdon, co-chair of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, also claims the Canadian-born Bishop is an ‘outsider’ with ‘neither sympathy nor respect for the history and heritage of her host community.’
His hard-hitting comments in this week’s episode of Christchurch Dilemmas - The Case for Reinstatement - follow the public release of a report by the Cathedral Working Group, which recommends that the Church and the Government agree to adopt a reinstatement plan “that repairs, rebuilds and restores this nationally significant heritage building”.
The Church Property Trust had two representatives on the working group, but the CPT is apparently divided over the report’s recommendations, hence the Bishop’s decision to put the Cathedral’s future to a vote of the Anglican Synod, in September.
At issue appears to be a funding shortfall. The CWG Report makes clear up to $50 million will needed to be raised publicly to fund the estimated $104 million cost to reinstate the cathedral.
While Bishop Matthews declined an offer from Christchurch Dilemmas to present her case for deconstruction, on RNZ”s Checkpoint programme last week she indicated that with ‘many people on the east side suffering in compromised housing', the vast sums required to rebuild the cathedral could be put to better use.
In that same interview, she also said the Cathedral was not the ‘Taj Mahal’ and in England would be considered a ‘large parish church’.
Architectural historian, Ian Lochhead disagrees. He says Christchurch Cathedral is an integral part of the city’s collection of Gothic revival buildings.
With no resolution immediate, Burdon is calling on the Government to intervene.
Minister of Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Nicky Wagner, says “ I do have powers to intervene, yes. But it does belong to the Anglican Church so my preference is to find an agreed decision to go forward”.
Going forward is the one thing everyone agrees on - Church, Central Government, Local Government, and restoration advocates.
In what form, remains to be seen.