A two-day hearing is being held in the High Court to decide the historic building’s fate, after action brough by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust against building owner, the Church Property Trust (CPT).
The trust is co-chaired by former Wigram MP Jim Anderton, and is after a binding ruling on whether the church’s deconstruction plans breach an act of Parliament which protects church buildings.
Anderton’s legal advice suggested that the church trustees were obliged to repair it, Fairfax NZ reported.
Minutes from a cathedral chapter meeting read to the court said it was to be written-off five months before Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) deemed it unsafe.
Also revealed was:
The old cathedral “glorified God in the old tradition” and a new cathedral could glorify God in the New Zealand tradition.
Reluctance to go back to “how things were” and “huge opportunities” existed for a new building.
The cathedral was “more than just a building”, it was the “heart and soul of the city”.
The old cathedral was “important to many people who actually took nothing from it”. A new one should “give more” to them.
Francis Cooke, counsel for the building trust, said his clients were obliged to act on the Cera section 38 notice.
It has to power to choose what demolition work must be done if a site is deemed unsafe.
A $40 million insurance payout well short of the repair costs created practical problems, however the issue was if the cathedral’s fate was at the trustees’ discretion, he said.
“They’ve received that section 38 notice, they’ve got to make the building safe, and they have decided, ‘Right, we’re not going to commit our resources to this building anymore. We’re going to take the $40m, build a transitional cathedral and then, at a later point in time, we’re going to build a new cathedral’. They just don’t have that power.”
The chapter minutes suggested the trustees and church thought they were free to decide its future.
“That was a view they took before the section 38 notice arrived and before the further aftershocks,” he said. “That was a view that was expressed very early in the piece, that this was an opportunity to do something new and different. It’s that kind of freedom the [building trust] says the trustees simply do not have.”
The rebuild was expected to cost more than $100m based on a five-year plan.