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How the $104 million ChristChurch Cathedral rebuild will be funded

ChristChurch Cathedral in 1989. Photo/Getty Images

Fundraisers need to find around $14 million to square off the ChristChurch cathedral.

Bomb threats? No. Anarchist attacks? No. Earthquakes? Yes – the spire was damaged by tremors in 1881, 1888 and again in 2011. Protests? By the fistful. After the announcement in 2012 that the ChristChurch Cathedral would be largely demolished, to be replaced by a new “inspirational cathedral”, the church has been a lightning rod for protests, petitions, delayed pronouncements, legal challenges, costly analyses and cheap allegations.

To break the deadlock, in 2016 the Government established the Cathedral Working Group (CWG), comprising appointees from the Church Property Trustees (which holds the property on trust for the church), the Government and the pro-heritage Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), to recommend a viable way to reinstate the damaged building.

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In its November 2016 report, the group recommended a “reinstatement scenario” costing about $104 million. Last week, members of the Christchurch Synod were asked to vote for one of three options: repair and strengthen the existing building along the lines of the CWG recommendations; pull it down and build a new church; or gift it as is to the people of New Zealand. In choosing the first option, the Church Property Trustees is now committed to work with the Government to finalise arrangements, including the establishment of a fundraising trust. Already, $90 million of the $104 million has been accounted for, by the $42 million insurance payout, a Crown cash grant of $10 million, a Crown-funded loan of $15 million (which will not need to be repaid if certain conditions are met), a Christchurch City Council grant of $10 million (subject to public consultation) and a GCBT pledge of $13.7 million. This leaves about $14 million for fundraisers to find.

Given the financial support offered over six years of “pretty relentless opposition” from the church, says GCBT co-chair and former MP Philip Burdon, this won’t be a problem. “Certainly, the fundraising organisations believe it won’t be an issue. We have had very generous offers from a whole raft of people from the community and overseas, one on the table for $4 million, so I don’t believe it will be an issue. There is serious goodwill out there.”

This article was first published in the September 23, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.