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John MacDonald: Like it or not, our broken cathedral needs more public money

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Feb 2024, 12:28PM
Photo / George Heard
Photo / George Heard

John MacDonald: Like it or not, our broken cathedral needs more public money

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Feb 2024, 12:28PM

Late last year we heard that work on the Christchurch Cathedral reinstatement had slowed down.  

We’d had a tip-off from someone who had a mate working on the project, that some of the workers had been told they were being moved to other jobs because the money was running out. 

Our news team had made some enquiries and was told “nothing to see here, everything all G.” But we knew there was some sort of review underway. And there was a cloud over the finances. 

Last night there was an event to launch a new fundraising campaign - where Anglican parishioners turned-up to the cardboard cathedral and were asked to “dig deep”. They were asked to donate a portion of their income for as long as the next five years, if they could. 

That was in Christchurch last night. And tonight, Anglicans in Timaru are going to be asked to do the same thing. Donate a portion of their income for the next five years. 

It will be interesting to see how that goes down with the Anglican parishioners, because they were told previously that they wouldn’t be asked for money - and the only money the church itself would be putting into the restoration would be what it got from the insurance pay-out. 

But here we are, the day before the 13th anniversary of the big 2011 quake, and the trust running the project has gone cap-in-hand to parishioners. 

And I think they are dreaming. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - fundraising in any way, shape or form is not going to raise enough money to get the job done. 

If we look at previous public statements by the people behind the restoration, we see that they set out just over two years ago to raise an amount they described as being “north of $50 million”.   

Originally, they had hoped to raise $26 million by October 2021 and another $25 million by the end of last year. 

But, so far, they’ve raised $24 million.  

So, what does that tell us? It tells us that they need at least another $26 million.  

But we don't know for sure because the Trust isn’t saying. It’s promising to say more in April once this review it’s got going has been done. A review which, by the way, includes working out repair methods, costs and timeframes. 

Which has some Christchurch City Councillors upset. Because they feel they’ve been left in the dark. Which, they say, isn’t good enough considering $30 million of public money has already gone into the project. 

$10 million from ratepayers and $20 million from taxpayers. 

But I tell you what, if we want this thing to get finished and that part of town released from the ball and chain the Cathedral restoration has become, then more public money is going to have to go into it. 

And I’m saying this as a ratepayer, as a taxpayer, and as someone who thinks the restoration shouldn’t even be happening. The Anglicans didn’t even want to fix it. They were forced into it. 

But if the options are to let it linger for years to come, or for us to chip-in some more money, then I’m up for paying a bit more. 

Because the developments and improvements that haven’t happened in the Square because of the cathedral restoration work are significant. 

That’s why most of the paving hasn’t been repaired or replaced. That’s why the pin was pulled on an amazing new building development on the corner of Colombo and Hereford streets. That was going to be quite something.  

Shigaru Ban designed it. He’s the guy who designed the cardboard cathedral. But it didn’t go anywhere because the cathedral was holding up the works. 

Yes, the Te Pae Convention Centre got built and, yes, the new library got built. But they’re on the fringes of the Square. The rest of it is stuck in 2011 until the cathedral is finished 

And that’s why I think we can’t leave it to the cathedral restoration people to determine when that part of town gets freed-up for development and becomes part of Christchurch life again. 

That’s why I think we need to bite the bullet and put more ratepayer money into this thing. I can’t imagine the Government being interested in any way in a request for money. 

So, it’s the Christchurch City Council —us ratepayers— who need to “dig deep”, not just the Anglican parishioners. 

Because it’s been 13 years already and, the way this project is going, it could be another 13 years before it’s finished, if we don’t come to the rescue.  

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