“Christchurch Cathedral Restoration” The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust Media Release 23rd August 2013


"The Trust has today applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal will be against findings of the Court of Appeal..."

The text of the The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust media release is the following:

Press Release – 23 August 2013

Christchurch Cathedral Restoration


The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (the Trust) recognises the immense significance of the symbol of the Cathedral to the city of Christchurch.  It is the outstanding feature for most residents and visitors.  It is the image of the city.  It is the centre of the city.  It is the heart of the people.  The Anglican Church, who are the owners, are custodians for all the citizens.  The Cathedral is the financial magnet for tourism and business in Christchurch.  It also has a powerful significance for most of the residents, as both the secular and spiritual heart of the city.

The Trust has today applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal will be against findings of the Court of Appeal that:

  1. The public funds donated to the Cathedral were irrelevant in determining the Church’s powers
  2. The Church is only required to have “a” Cathedral in the Square. Demolition and erection of a new Cathedral is permitted, provided funds are available to do so
  3. The Church Trustees have no obligation at all to maintain or repair the existing Cathedral
  4. The Church is free to demolish the Cathedral, despite what is said in the Anglican (Diocese of Christchurch) Church Property Trust Act 2003, and other legislation.


  • The Trust believes any decision to demolish the Cathedral is detrimental to the recovery of Christchurch
  • The Trust has consulted widely before taking any further legal action
  • The Trust has invited the Church Property Trustees (the Church) to work with the Trust to restore the Cathedral (see business plan attached .... or request email copy)
  • The Trust is still hopeful that a successful dialogue between themselves and the Church may be established to enable the legal conflict to be set aside
  • The Trust can help alleviate the financial, funding and management stress from the Church in relation to the Cathedral restoration
  • The Trust’s restoration proposal would enable the Church to undertake its wider recovery and its pastoral mission more efficiently and effectively
  • The Trust wishes to ensure the long term certainty of the Cathedral – under the current legal interpretation, the Cathedral’s future would always be uncertain.
  • The Court of Appeal’s interpretation of the deed establishing the Cathedral, would mean that at any time in the future the Cathedral could be replaced even if it were not earthquake damaged
  • The Trust does not believe this is an acceptable status for the city’s pre-eminent building
  • The Trust believes it is essential to seek clarification of the status and future of the Cathedral from the highest court in the land
  • The protection of the key remaining heritage buildings in Christchurch is essential for future generations – the Cathedral is one of the few significant giants left standing and must be preserved
  • The Trust has developed a restoration plan that could see the Cathedral fully restored to the highest seismic code.  These repairs could be achieved in a 5-7 year period for $67m.
  • Experts have identified the restoration of the Cathedral as a key issue for the recovery of the city from both a financial and an emotional perspective.


Social Impact

Quote from a ‘perspective’ article in The Press - by Alma Rae – Consultant Psychiatrist CDHB

“Here in Canterbury most of us have experienced more change than we could ever have wished for.  Much of it has taken the shape of outright loss – loss of loved ones, of homes and communities, jobs, a sense of security, trust in the powers-that-be, or all of the above.  To move about in what little remains of the central city of Christchurch is to become rapidly disoriented.  The place is barely recognisable bar a few buildings, and one of these is the Cathedral.  Sad though it looks, at least we know it, and from that, where we are.  This is no small thing in such disconcerting times.....”

“It is the familiar that comforts most.  So little can be relied on in our post-disaster city, we need all the familiarity, all the reassuring routines, relationships and objects we can get, in order to allow our over-worked nervous systems to calm down so that we feel safe and well.”

“Why, then, is the Cathedral Property Trust determined upon destroying one of the few tangible touchstones we have left?  The legacy of our forefathers is to be demolished, or rendered into some risible little wall, by a handful of people the leader of whom has barely been in the country for six years, let alone six generations.  What is the local Anglican Church thinking?  Have they themselves not lost enough of their precious and beautiful churches to understand the feelings engendered?  Surely it is their job to be reassuring, comforting, helpful and kind.  Instead they plan to demolish our most revered icon and replace it with – well, who knows?  But certainly, if it goes, in the rubble-strewn hole where once it was there will be more loss and pain, foisted on us by an institution that should be outstanding in its pastoral concern, not adding gratuitous insult to injury.”


Legal Detail

The land for the Cathedral was acquired by the Provincial Council and provided for the Church only once the building of the Cathedral had commenced.  The construction was funded by donations from the public, including those who donated money for particular purposes such as specific pillars and windows.  It was the early-settlers statement that they were here, and here to stay.  The building is of huge architectural significance and its proposed demolition has invoked concern worldwide.  The Trust believes that the issue of whether the obligations of the Church Property Trustees require the retention of this Category 1 Heritage Building is of such importance that they should be taken to the highest Court in New Zealand for a decision.  The Cathedral is not a piece of private property in the usual sense.  The Church Property Trustees own the Cathedral on trust.  The precise terms of that trust, and the obligations of the Trustees to maintain and repair the Cathedral will be the focus of the case in the Supreme Court.

The Trust very much regrets that it has not been able to reach a resolution on the future of the Cathedral with the Church.  To date, the Church has declined to engage in any meaningful consultation.  They have not accepted the Trust’s offers of funding and assistance.  While the Church takes the position that the building’s future is for it alone to determine, as a Category 1 Heritage Building, any demolition would ordinarily require a resource consent and be subject to a public process, with rights of appeal to the courts.



In his book ‘The Story of Canterbury’ A H Reed records that the construction of the cathedral got off to a slow start, then "With almost startling suddenness, in the very next year a new spirit of optimistic courage and hopefulness falsified these gloomy predictions. The Pilgrims climbed out of the slough of despond, prosperous laymen made liberal contributions, and others gave as generously as they were able. In 1873 a contract was let for the erection of a portion of the walls, and in 1881 the main building was opened..... The west porch....was built by Mrs Alfred Richard Creyke as a memorial to her husband.....The tower was erected by R Heaton Rhodes in memory of his brother George, and the spire by George's children; and so the dream came true and the glorious cathedral in the square rose high above the city….

Within the walls of the cathedral imperishable history is written in brass and stone. The Selwyn memorial pulpit is composed of various stones found in the diocese, and on its several carved panels is depicted New Zealand's first bishop preaching to the Maoris, the meeting of Selwyn and Harper in 1856, the Council of Bishops in 1857 and the consecration of Bishop Patteson in 1861. The eagle lectern was a gift of Mrs Harper..... The silver alms dish on the altar was presented on Harper's golden wedding day by his twelve sons and daughters, ten sons-in-law and daughters-in-law and sixty grandchildren. The font was donated by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, the famous Dean of Westminster, in memory of his younger brother Captain Owen Stanley, R.N.... Every stone column and every storied window chronicles history. On a tablet to the memory of Edward Jollie, surveyor to the New Zealand Company, and the first European to journey overland from Nelson to Canterbury..... Immediately below is a tablet inscribed 'To the glory of God and in loving memory of Francis Ormonde Holden Jollie, Captain 2nd Battalion East Surrey Regiment. 1890-1915. Killed in action in France 25.4.15. ....'

There is a memorial to Sarah Elizabeth Hawdon, 'elder daughter of the late Dr, A. C. Barker ... and first-born of this city. Born March 15, 1851. Died September 11, 1921'. Stained glass windows perpetuate the memory of the pioneers: Sir Thomas Tancred, Robert Heaton Rhodes.... Bishop Harper...., R. J. S. Harman (one of the discoverers of the Browning Pass). James Edward Fitzgerald, Archdeacon Dudley (a Pilgrim Churchman). C. J. Watts-Russell (Canterbury's first runholder with the doubtful distinction of having introduced rabbits into the Province)....

The rose window was presented by Leonard and Mrs Harper. Beneath the Greenwood window is an interesting memorial to Frederick George Brittan whose long life almost spanned the Province's first century. The son of William Guise Brittan, he arrived in the Sir George Seymour, and died as late as 1945 - the last survivor of the Canterbury Pilgrims strictly so called. The noble building and all that it enshrines bear witness to the faith, the vision and the achievements of the Pilgrims.”

In other words, it's not merely our building. It belongs to the people of Christchurch and we hold it in trust for past, present and future generations. Another cathedral, whatever its shape or design, would be a betrayal of the ideals of the founders of Christchurch, and an inferior substitute for one of New Zealand’s finest buildings.


Great Christchurch Building Trust

Co Chairs
Jim Anderton
Philip Burdon

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