Armenian church restoration has lessons for Auckland’s Christchurch

– An Auckland lawyer has been revealed as the person the Government is using to fix the impasse over the future of the badly damaged Christchurch Cathedral.

Prominent Auckland Queen’s Counsel Miriam Dean is negotiating with church leaders and heritage campaigners who have clashed over whether to restore or demolish.

Ms Dean has been meeting with the two groups for the past fortnight, but the Government is saying nothing else – including the vital question of what she is getting paid.

But one man who wants to talk is restoration campaigner Geoffrey Rathbun. He’s so passionate he funded his own trip to see a wrecked church in Gyumri, Armenia.

It was badly damaged in an earthquake more than 27 years ago, wrecked worse than the Christchurch Cathedral, and restoration on it is almost complete.

“The people of that city had a very strong connection with that cathedral like we do,” Mr Rathbun says. “The Church wanted to restore it and they had a lack of money, but they had the determination to get the money and follow through to build it.”

Mr Rathbun is now back from Armenia armed with letters from the town’s bishop and mayor supporting a restoration. He plans to present them to Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and church officials.

The Prime Minister, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and others have been lobbied by Christchurch citizens concerned the mess in the square is holding back the city.

The Government has asked Ms Dean to have it sorted by Christmas, and Mr Rathbun won’t be happy with anything less than a restoration.