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The Press-News column Sep 16

The battle of artist renderings in Christchurch.

Yesterday’s official opening of the eye-catching Hagley Oval pavilion marks a welcome addition to the city’s incremental rebirth. What an alluring new facility in a dream setting. Primarily developed with the Cricket World Cup in mind, it’s proponents spruiked the development in 2012 as a priceless opportunity to showcase our glittering new and rebuilt city to the world. In hindsight, such marketing spin was ridiculously rose-tinted. As Saturday’s supplement from Colliers in The Press outlines, there’s a slew of dynamic central city developments, signed off and in the pipeline. But when the first ball is bowled in the World Cup opener on February 14, far from showing off the finished product, artist renderings will still be doing most of the talking for the central city. Artist renderings are also reigniting our greatest unresolved civic schism – the future of the Cathedral. Barclays Bank vice-chairman, Euan Harkness has unveiled his $80 million vision for a “living cathedral” which would turn the building into a memorial site, under a “floating timber canopy’, book-ended by Ngai Tahu’s cultural centre.  Sorry, but the notion of a sprawling wooden pergola gobbling up the expanse of Cathedral Square doesn’t float my boat. And I’m surprised that Ngai Tahu is reportedly considering re-locating its planned cultural centre, which was an earmarked anchor project for Victoria Square. I’m also intrigued that Jayson Rhodes, the Anglican diocese public relations spokesman, brought down from Auckland by the Church Property Trust ( CPT), is not rejecting the Harkness concept.  Has the CPT finally come to its senses and jettisoned their contemporary replacement design, the much-maligned “upturned dinghy?” Meanwhile, Sir Miles Warren has fleshed out his artist impressions of the “middle course” plan for Christ Church Cathedral, with further details. Is it not somewhat conflicting that Sir Miles is hell-bent on ensuring the Town Hall is fully and faithfully restored, yet he‘s cheerleading for the Cathedral to be substantially reworked in wood? CPT must surely be interested in his vision – and the $35 million price-tag, which is within the insured earthquake sum. CPT will also be cognisant that the “Amazing Cathedral” PR campaign, appears to be securing emphatic public endorsement for its $67 million restoration plan . The Press online poll, while not scientific, now indicates 66% support for restoration.  I’m just back from a travel media conference in Australia, where yet again, the most asked about Christchurch question was, “How’s the Cathedral?” Bishop Victoria and the CPT cannot ignore the overwhelming public appetite for resurrecting the landmark we all recognise, regardless of whether its reinstatement favours wood or stone.

Mike Yardley’s current affairs column, as first published in The Press. September 16, 2014. http://www.press.co.nz

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