Christchurch cathedral restoration: ’People are more important than buildings’

Christchurch cathedral. - Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The departing Anglican Bishop of Christchurch has criticised the restoration of the Cathedral, questioning if there will be enough money to pay for it.

After over six years of debate, the governing body for Canterbury Anglicans voted to restore the Christchurch cathedral in September last year.

The Christchurch City Council pledged $10 million and The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, which campaigned for restoration, has promised to fundraise about $13.7 million.

During her closing sermon on Sunday, Bishop Victoria Matthews said people are more important than buildings.

"Fifteen thousand earthquakes have shaken us and what we thought we were about. The greatest energy seven to eight years on is invested in restoring business back to normal, politicians are far more interested in getting elected and keeping up on the polls than actually assisting the people on the east side of town."

Ms Matthews said the synod only agreed to restore the cathedral in a bid to reconcile the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch with the wider community.

"I will work with the church said the Christchurch mayor with tears in her eyes, now seven months later the city council declares it's money is being withheld to the last moment and perhaps won't be needed."

But in December, the council said its grant would only be made available once other sources of Crown and church funding had been applied to the restoration.

"If the fundraising for the Cathedral exceeds the amount required for the Cathedral's reinstatement, the Council's contribution will be adjusted accordingly."

Ms Matthews also took aim at the Greater Christchurch Buildings Trust which has pledged to fundraise nearly $14 million for the restoration.

"We have the trust who admit they have not adopted a fundraising strategy, yet let alone started fundraising. Business as usual folks, with the wealthy and powerful telling you, the people of Canterbury, that they know best - good luck with that," Ms Matthews said.

Greater Christchurch Building Trust co-founder, Philip Burdon, said Ms Matthews' comments are incorrect and disappointing.

He said the trust has already given one million dollars as a sign of good faith.

"As soon as the fundraising trust is established then we will proceed to raise the additional pledges from the community."

Mr Burdon said he's not sure why Ms Matthews made the comments she did.

"Victoria is well aware of the background, that we can not start fundraising until the structure is established which is being done by the Crown so to that extent her comments are unfair, mischievous and wrong.

"Her remarks are ungenerous and unfortunate, the trust continues to support the church at every level," Mr Burdon said.

Seven years later we have a building that is only now in the process of being restored which is very unfortunate so we need to proceed with the church, which obviously has a very important role, he said.


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