Bishop Matthews firm on lowering Christ Church cathedral

The Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, the Right Reverend Victoria Matthews, has agreed to meet those opposed to the demolition of Christ Church Cathedral and to listen to their concerns. At the same time, she is firmly convinced the building must be demolished.

The demolition of the cathedral’s tower is set to begin today, and it is anticipated that it will take about a week.   The highest part of the tower came down in the February 2011 earthquake. It was lowered further by demolition crews last year to make it more safe.

Bishop Matthews stated that those who are protesting against the cathedral’s demolition did not understand how dangerous it is to leave the cathedral as it is.

“[Cathedral Square] is not vacant. Many people are working there. It’s a very large, very tall building, and we need to have it safe so it doesn’t come down on people.

“It was not until December that we understood this was an ongoing seismic process. We were told there was a 79 per cent chance of another 5 to 5.4-magnitude earthquake and we have to think about how dangerous that building will be to people in that vicinity in that event,” Bishop Matthews said.

Public opposition to the cathedral’s being lowered has been consistent since the announcement in March that it would be mostly demolished.

Mark Belton, Restore Christ Church Cathedral group chairman, said the cathedral was as significant as AMI Stadium and the Arts Centre, and deserved similar financial support.

“We shouldn’t be baulking at the cost of the cathedral because it’s got to be in that league in terms of importance.

“All that’s been said so far in the conversation is it could be between $30 million and $100 million. That’s minor relative to those other projects, yet for many people in the city it’s much more important.”

Mr Belton’s group is supported by a petition signed by 100 members of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering.

Structural engineer Andrew King, who is one of the signatories, said that proper consideration had not been given to the cathedral’s status as an icon: “Economically it’s debatable but money is replaceable, whereas an icon of this sort isn’t.”


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News category: New Zealand.

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