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$25m to break cathedral stalemate

People play chess in front of the earthquake-damaged Christ Church Cathedral in January.

The Government offered $25 million to break deadlock over the Christ Church Cathedral, it has been revealed.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee said he was "surprised and disappointed" no restoration deal had been made for the earthquake-damaged cathedral. The Government offered $10m in cash and a $15m loan to help restore the building.

The funding pledge was made to Anglican leaders in December and also included an offer to handle resource consents and set up a project management office for the restoration, he said.

The cathedral has been open to the elements for nearly six years.

However, diocesan chancellor Jeremy Johnson maintained no binding offer had been received.

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Brownlee said the deal involved Anglicans putting $42m towards the restoration, campaign group Great Christchurch Buildings Trust raising $15m from donors and the Government donating $10m.


He said that left $30m to be raised for the restoration over a number of years. The $15m underwriting was offered by the Government to underwrite the restoration project while funds were being raised.

The Church Property Trustees (CPT), who manage the diocese buildings, did not accept the deal as they wanted the Government to underwrite the total $30m fundraising target for the project, Brownlee said.

"The Government couldn't do that. Think of all the other buildings in Christchurch that have pressing needs as well," he said.

"We have been generous . . . The Government has bent over backwards to try and assist the CPT with the problem they have with their building. It has been surprising and disappointing to me that we haven't been able to get to a position where they could push the go button."

Johnson said the $30m loan to cover the fundraising was a topic of discussion.

"The question of dealing with the trustee's risk on a project of this size has always been on the table."

Brownlee said the Government had so far spent about $440,000 on efforts to broker a deal on the cathedral, dating back to a report by lawyer Miriam Deans commissioned in 2015.

He revealed the funding offer because he feared the Government was being blamed for the stalemate.

"I am concerned that we are getting to the point where the Government is being blamed for no action. We have done all we can.

"I am disappointed that I am having to put all this out in the open."

A second government offer with different terms was being discussed with the CPT, he said.

Brownlee said he understood the CPT was meeting next week to discuss the second offer.

A statement from the CPT said Bishop Victoria Matthews had not spoken to Brownlee since December.

"CPT has not received an offer from the Crown, the last time the Bishop spoke to the Minister she called him to wish him a Happy Christmas. CPT has no scheduled meeting next week."

Restoration campaigners had expected an announcement of a possible restoration deal before February 22.

In June, the Government appointed a working group to consider restoration options for the cathedral. The group delivered non-binding restoration recommendations in November.

The options were considered by Prime Minister Bill English's new Cabinet on December 20.






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