New Zealand to rebuild quake-damaged ChristChurch Cathedral

In this Sept. 5, 2017 photo, tourists play chess and pose for a photo near the Feb. 22, 2011 earthquake damaged ChristChurch Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand. For more than six years since a deadly earthquake struck Christchurch, the city’s iconic cathedral has sat in ruins in the city center. For many locals, the wreck has become a visual reminder of the infighting that has slowed the city’s broader rebuild. Finally on Saturday, Sept. 9 the Anglican church made a decision: it will rebuild the ChristChurch Cathedral, strengthening it for future quakes and adding improvements but otherwise leaving the basic design intact. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - More than six years after a deadly earthquake struck Christchurch and the city's iconic cathedral, the Anglican Church in New Zealand on Saturday made the decision to rebuild the landmark.

For many locals, the wreck has become a visual reminder of the infighting that has slowed the city's broader rebuild.

The Gothic Revival-style cathedral was once one of the city's top tourist attractions. When the magnitude 6.3 quake struck in Feb. 2011, it killed 185 people and destroyed thousands of buildings. It toppled the cathedral's spire and ruined much of its structure.

Since then, the cathedral's future has been the subject of intrigue and legal action. The basic points of dispute have been over whether the remains should be rebuilt or cleared away to make room for a new design, and who should pay.

Those questions have finally been resolved.

The Anglican Church said the ChristChurch Cathedral will be strengthened for future quakes and improved with better heating and seating, but otherwise rebuilt to its basic design.

The rebuild is expected to take 10 years and cost 104 million New Zealand dollars ($76 million). The tab will be picked up by the church, taxpayers and donors.

The decision was welcomed by the government. Lawmaker Nicky Wagner said it was the best possible outcome for the city.

"For many years, the cathedral has sat broken and neglected, detracting from all the amazing work taking place in Christchurch," Wagner said in a release. "This decision gives the church, the community, businesses and tourism bodies the certainty they've been looking for."

The decision came after three days of meetings by the 225 members of the Anglican's local governing synod.

They voted about 55 per cent in favour of the rebuild, after also considering building a new cathedral or simply handing over the ruins to the government as a gift.

Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews said making a final call hadn't been easy, but "the overwhelming message Christchurch people told us was to 'just get on with it' and make a decision."

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