When Philip Burdon and the late Jim Anderton united to rescue the Christ Church Cathedral from demolition, they did so in the firm belief they were saving an original symbol of the city’s aspiration.
The unlikely pair were former politicians from opposite sides of politics – Philip Burdon is the former National MP for Ilam and senior minister in the National Government from 1990 to 1996. Jim Anderton is a former Labour MP for Sydenham and later leader of the Alliance and then Progressive parties. They were used to doing battle in Parliament’s debating chamber but as passionate Cantabrians first and foremost, they put their political differences aside to fight for the Cathedral, becoming prominent campaigners for its restoration.
“The Cathedral is the very physical symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the city’s founding fathers. Along with many others, Jim and I were also deeply aware of the unique place it held in the heritage of our city.
“We were horrified when we learned the church proposed to demolish the Cathedral and became co-chairs of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust,” says Philip Burdon. “It was established specifically to see the Cathedral restored.”
At the time, he says “The Church leadership of the day, initially at least, seemed totally committed to the Cathedral’s demolition, which resulted in five years of litigation from 2012 to 2017 when Synod reversed its original decision supporting demolition in favour of restoration.”
The Cathedral is now well on the path to reinstatement, which is due to be complete in mid-2027.
Philip is also a major donor, having contributed five million towards the project to date. His support is driven by his clear belief that the Cathedral is a unique part of Canterbury’s history, its heritage, and its identity.
“It is the place where all the major successes, triumphs and tragedies of the community have been appropriately celebrated or mourned. It also represents a unique degree of tranquillity and peace in the heart of our city.”
He is very much looking forward to seeing the Cathedral once again take pride of place in Cathedral Square.
“I am deeply grateful to all those who have been involved in what is a very challenging restoration, including the generous donations from the Government and the Christchurch City Council.
“In a very personal sense, once its complete I will be greatly relieved that we have restored what is truly the heart of our city.”