Christchurch diocese considers new site for cathedral

new site

The Catholic bishop of Christchurch, Paul Martin, says the diocese is in talks over the purchase of a city centre site near Cathedral Square, which he declined to name.

Martin said the land purchase talks were part of an assessment of three options for the 113-year-old Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament which was severely damaged in an earthquake in February 2011.

The three options are

  • Demolish the cathedral and build on a new site
  • Restore the original building for an estimated $105 million, though Martin believes it could cost more
  • Demolish and rebuild on the same site

“If we are not going to rebuild at the cathedral site, the desire is to be based in the city,” Martin said.

“If we were able to get a site that was suitable, that would make a difference to our final decision.

“There is no point saying we won’t rebuild and then not being able to find a suitable new site.”

The Catholic church was granted a section 38 notice in August 2015 in order to partially deconstruct the earthquake-damaged cathedral.

A spokesman for Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) confirmed that section 38 notice for the cathedral was still valid, but that was subject to some conditions like providing a detailed demolition plan.

Martin said the cathedral could be demolished under the notice if it were deemed too expensive to restore.

The church has a $30m insurance payout for the building but would need to raise any funds beyond that.

“If the funding is not available and it is prohibitive in the end, that is why demolition is an option,” he said.

“Finances will certainly be an element, it is a pretty major element.”

He said an option would be chosen early next year.

The cathedral is a category one heritage building.

Heritage New Zealand southern director Sheila Watson said demolition had not been presented to them as a serious proposal.

“Once again we would lose heritage, but if that is the law, that is the law.

“They have been working quite closely with us so we would expect to talk to them.”

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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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