Speech at Public Meeting on Christ Church Cathedral

Cathedral Square,
Christchurch
1.30pm, Sunday, 28th May, 2017

Christ Church Cathedral – let’s get moving

 

There has been so much said. So much written.

But this building, Christ Church Cathedral, sits in the heart of this wonderful city.
The city on the edge of the Canterbury Plains.
The city that’s known for its Gothic-style Cathedral, right in the centre.
Yes, right here is a church.
But it is so much more.
Many here in Christchurch will say it is “our cathedral”.
You are right. It is the image of your city, of your place, the place you identify with.
There were so many events held here that were non-religious – like the annual flower carpet - and it’s always been an attraction.
That’s why the City Council supported it financially.
It’s been a church, an event centre, a tourist attraction – the city’s jewel.

Heritage
There are others who say it is old, now ruined, so demolish it and move on, it’s a giant waste of money.
Move on where? And with what? And forgetting how much?
It is, rightly, a Category 1 listed heritage building.
It tells a story of the city’s past.
Yes, its history is with religion.
But in this city it’s impossible to ignore that link.
The city shares its name. It’s called Christchurch after all.
And is home to the Crusaders.
The cathedral’s heritage value is so much higher now – with so many other heritage buildings lost.
Like the historic “Press” building, a notable edifice that stood on the corner behind the cathedral.
The cathedral’s heritage listing makes demolition a no-go.
That would be like opening up a new front on the battleground.
You don’t need that.

So Many Views
There are so many views on “what to do”.
We are not here to canvass those today.
We are here today to say the government should have taken decisive action.
I said that three years ago and I am saying it today.

Join Together
The question that must be addressed is:
Why haven’t all those arguments, and opinions come together?
Some of you will remember the anthem-like, hit song of your 1974 Commonwealth Games – Join Together.
And back then you did. The city and its people came together, put on an event that was a resounding success.
And New Zealand took the first gold medal - thanks to Timaru-born Dick Tayler, who shot home in front of 35,000 people to win the 10,000 metres.
That run set the “friendly” Games alight.
The Games were a triumph. So good, Christchurch decided to do it all again the following year, and staged the one and only New Zealand Games.
As you know, the main venue for the ‘74 Games, QE2, was also dealt a fatal blow in February 2011.
It’s not lying there as a pile of rubble now. It’s gone.
But your cathedral is lying in its unglamorous, unattended, neglected state right here.
It’s open to the weather.
A ruin is not the acceptable face of a city being re-born.
Sure, some ruins historically have been left as reminders of the past around the world.
But not for the reasons yours has been left neglected.
Those societies couldn’t fix them, your society can.
And that’s the New Zealand way.
And that’s what should happen to Christchurch’s most familiar famous sight.

Ownership
It has been six years.
We know the cathedral is legally owned by the Anglican Church.
So, some heat must go there for its inability to resolve its own problem.
As a building owner it must take responsibility.
Leaving the cathedral derelict is not acceptable behaviour of a good citizen.
Particularly one that owns “the heart” of the city.
Any other homeowner would be chastised and derided if they neglected their property.
The last thing quake-stressed Christchurch needed was to be drawn into an argument over “what to do” about the cathedral.
But that happened.
There has been no “harmonious spirit” – as there was around the ‘74 Games.
There has been no-one calling for everyone to join together “in the spirit” the 1974 song called for.
There’s been no government leadership, that’s the difference.

The Minister
The Minister responsible for the Rebuild and Recovery has been given extraordinary powers.
Kremlin-like powers.
So leadership and “ownership” of the issue was expected.
Six years of bickering attests to the emptiness of the leadership chair.
Others stepped up, but not the one who should have - the Minister.
Certainly, after the quakes there were mighty decisions to be made.
But the cathedral’s future was one of them.
No doubt the Minister blames the Church.
Gerry has moved on, for the new minister, Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner.
We want her to show leadership. And now.
Tell the Church to accept a programme to restore the Cathedral, and keep its gothic style and heritage as far as is practical.

The report
Mr Brownlee sat on the Cathedral Working Group report which has called for “reinstatement” of the cathedral.
It was supposed to have been released this week, but no sign of it, but when we announced on twitter and facebook a public meeting to be held here today, lordy, lordy it was suddenly released.
There’s no need to further mull over this report.
There’s no need to wait for the Church’s Synod in September to deliberate, which is what the Bishop wants. 
The Minister must now adopt the report, command the Bishop and the Church Property Trustees, as she can, to do the same, and move ahead.
It’s time for your city’s Cathedral Project of restoration and re-birth to begin.
It won’t happen overnight.
But the city will be buoyed when the first signs and sounds of work begin.
A trust can be formed, through legislation, to take over the project.
The Church’s insurance pay out of $42 million will go into building the sum of $100 million required.
The government has already offered to contribute around 10 per cent of the funding.
That is not nearly enough.
The report recommends fundraising will have to fill the 50 per cent void.
However, let’s think about what Christchurch has earned for the government.
There’s some economic debate, but the tax take from the Christchurch Rebuild sits between $7 billion and $11 billion.
A bonanza from your catastrophe.
Don’t you think you should get some of it back?
And here’s one project that just needs a tiny ounce of that quake gold.
That contribution would rule out asking Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand to fill the donation buckets.

Conclusion
The waiting is over.
The report has been written, enough views and opinions have been canvassed. There’s been enough talk.
The government has the ball in its hands – it has been sitting there for a long time.
It’s time to play ball.
And you have my personal undertaking that if the government doesn’t start now we will start this project after the next election.