Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Christ Church Cathedral - 30 April 2012

Save our Cathedral, Cantabrians plead

Last updated 05:00 03/05/2012

Prominent Cantabrians have made an impassioned plea to stop demolition of the Christ Church Cathedral on the day its tower was reduced to rubble.

Business leaders, politicians, engineers, architects and heritage advocates were among 82 signatories to an open letter in The Press yesterday, addressed to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), Church Property Trustees, Cathedral Chapter and Christchurch City Council.

Its publication coincided with the cathedral tower demolition yesterday. Work is now on hold until June.

The signatories said they "oppose in the strongest terms possible, the razing of the cathedral to a wall height of 3 metres".

Those who signed the letter included included Ballantynes managing director Richard Ballantyne, Skope Industries founder Robert Stewart, former MP Jim Anderton, broadcaster Mike Yardley and former mayor Garry Moore.

Sir Humphry Wakefield and Christopher Godley, the British-based relatives of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a cathedral founder, and city founder John Robert Godley, also signed.

The group supports a restore-the-cathedral petition signed by more than 100 engineers.

Last night, structural engineer and petition signatory Andrew King said a Cera recommendation to bring down most of the cathedral was wrong.

"I'm sorry to say that I don't believe Cera have the technical background to form an opinion one way or another."

Last week, Cera released hundreds of files, including engineering reports, letters and photos about the building.

A letter from former Cera operations general manager Warwick Isaacs recommended Anglican leaders select the option that required the most demolition. He said the option to save most of the structure would not work.

Last night, a Cera spokeswoman responded by saying the organisation "employs a team of highly qualified engineers for all aspects of the work it engages in".

Restore Christ Church Cathedral Group spokesman Mark Belton said the open letter added more weight to their cause. "The solutions are all there and the wheels are in motion."

It was "imperative" the agencies joined forces to secure the building for the future, he said.

The open letter read: "It [the cathedral] should be made safe, repaired and restored as near as possible to its original form. We see the cathedral as the unifying catalyst for a new, non-partisan, enlightened appreciation of all our city's distinctive heritage buildings ... Our rebuilt city must reflect our past as well as a commitment to our future."

Moore told The Press the letter represented a broad cross-section of the community. "We're standing up and we're saying, `Let's not all die in various ditches around the place; let's see if we can find a solution that retains our heritage and keeps something that's so valuable'. It's way beyond a church; it's an important cultural building," he said.

An Anglican Diocese spokeswoman said the cathedral project team would meet to discuss the letter.

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