Supreme Court denies bid to stop demolition of Christchurch Cathedral
It’s nearing the end of the line for a group looking to reinstate the Christchurch Cathedral to its former glory, a Supreme Court judgment says.
The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust has lost its bid to appeal the deconstruction of the Cathedral by Church Property Trustees, a statutory body with custodial responsibility for many of the church's assets.
There are still two additional cases before the courts, including an application for an injunction, which could provide some reprieve for the Restore Christchurch Cathedral campaign.
The cathedral was damaged in the September 2010 earthquake and subsequent earthquakes in 2011. In March 2012, Church Property Trustees decided to deconstruct the cathedral after the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, the second defendant in the case, said work was required to make the building safe.
The trust took the matter to the High Court and, in October 2012, it ruled the trustees had to build a new cathedral on the site if the existing one was demolished. However, trustees do not “have to replicate the cathedral as it stood before the earthquakes occurred,” a High Court judgment said.
In July, the Court of Appeal dismissed the trust’s appeal to require reinstatement of the cathedral.
The Supreme Court (Justices John McGrath, Susan Glazebrook and Terence Arnold) considered four Court of Appeal findings in dispute.
First, the Court of Appeal found public funds donated to the cathedral were irrelevant in determining the church’s powers.
Second, the church is free to demolish the existing structure.
Third, the church has no obligation at all to maintain or repair the existing structure.
Fourth, the church is required to have “a” cathedral, not maintain or repair the existing one.
The Supreme Court found the issues raised were that of interpretation of the law, not legal errors in the Court of Appeal findings.
“We are accordingly satisfied that no legal question of general or public importance arises from the application for leave to appeal,” the judgment says.
Duncan Cotterill represented Great Christchurch Buildings Trust and Wynn Williams Lawyers represented Church Property Trustees.