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Council calls for demolition pause

The Christchurch City Council has asked for an "immediate pause" in the demolition of ChristChurch Cathedral.

• Brownlee says cathedral protest unrealistic

• Watch John Key on why the cathedral may be demolished

The Press and Taonga News  |  17 May 2012

The Christchurch City Council has asked for an "immediate pause" in the demolition of ChristChurch Cathedral.

After a lengthy debate, councillors voted 10-4 to call for a halt to demolition while "deeper and more open consideration" of restoration plans took place.

However, the diocese says deconstruction has already been halted to around mid-June.

In a statement this afternoon, a diocesan spokeswoman pointed out that there is still a section 38 notice on the building and plans still have to meet the safety requirements of this notice.

"There is still a 76% probability of an aftershock of between 5 and 5.4, in the next year, which is both a safety risk for any workers on site and could also lead to further damage of the building," she said.

"Even the ongoing demolition of buildings around the cathedral is causing the ground to shake and more damage to occur.

"The main priorities with the cathedral, as already stated, are safety and the safe retrieval of heritage items and taonga."

Meanwhile, earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee has rejected the council's statement that more work is needed to determine whether the cathedral can be saved.

"I think that it is deeply insulting to the Anglican Church, who have gone about this in a deeply methodical and constructive way," Mr Brownlee said.

Deconstruction work would be done in a "very sensitive manner" and could take up to a year, he added.

"That doesn't smack to me of the wrecking ball going in there and bulldozers coming along.

"I think some people out there who are making these claims need to draw a bit of breath."

He urged the council to "get its own house in order" first, and look at what it was doing to make quake-damaged social housing in the city fit to occupy again.

"The council are very good at telling everyone else what to do. They need to shape up a little bit and get serious about their representation [of the city]," Mr Brownlee said.

Speaking to TV One, Mr Brownlee called the council decision a 'let's placate the masses' approach which doesn't do the city any good at all.

Bishop Victoria Matthews also questioned the councillors' motives.

She said the cathedral had become a way for councillors to regain their reputation amongst Cantabrians.

"What we're now dealing with is reputation politics and not about the cathedral," said Bishop Victoria.

"We're into that sort of pressure politics which I think is unfortunate because the decision by the council doesn't change a thing."

City council debate

City councillors argued passionately for each side of the issue, with occasional flashes of anger.

Cr Helen Broughton, who asked councillors to call for the pause, said the diocese needed to try every possible option to determine whether the heritage building could be saved.

"It holds an important place in the hearts and psyches of Christchurch residents, and restoration appears possible," she said.

Cr Claudia Reid said the council could not tell Anglican leaders what to do but had a duty to speak out on behalf of the city's residents.

"There is a passion for a deeper conversation about the cathedral,'' she said.

''It is a very potent symbol of who we are and what we are."

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button, who was among those opposed to a halt in demolition, said the decision had been taken out of the diocese's hands by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).

"Cera said the cathedral was damaged and needed to be deconstructed or demolished. Whatever term you use, it needs to be taken down,'' she said.

"The church didn't make the decision to take it down; Cera decided to take it down."

Cr Peter Beck, who served as the cathedral's dean for nine years, was among the four who opposed the call to halt demolition.

He said the diocese had been "misrepresented in many ways" and he supported the process it had gone through before announcing the demolition.

"They've been agonising over this issue and they've used very clear and careful advice from experts to make those decisions."

The city needed to focus on a new cathedral rather than dwelling on the current one, he said.

Mayor Bob Parker also voted against the motion, saying council intervention would be a "distortion" of the process that Anglican leaders had gone through.

The council will write to Bishop Victoria, the Anglican diocese, Mr Brownlee and Cera advising them of its decision.

A rally against the demolition will be held in the city on May 26.

How the councillors voted


Bob Parker

Peter Beck

Sue Wells

Ngaire Button


Helen Broughton

Claudia Reid

Glenn Livingstone

Sally Buck

Jamie Gough

Tim Carter

Yani Johanson

Barry Corbett

Aaron Keown

Jimmy Chen