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Easter start date planned for reinstatement of New Zealand’s Christ Church Cathedral

Posted on: March 10, 2020 2:41 PM
A still image from a video produced by a drone camera inside New Zealand’s Christchurch Cathedral showing damaged caused by the February 2011 earthquake.
Photo Credit: Holmes Consulting Group

Work to reinstate Christ Church Cathedral in the New Zealand city of Christchurch could finally get underway by Easter. The cathedral has been closed since it was partially destroyed in an earthquake in February 2011. The diocese had planned to demolish and rebuild a new cathedral on the site but a public campaign for reinstatement claimed victory after a deal involving the diocese’s property trustees and synod, the New Zealand government and Christchurch City Council was agreed in September 2017.

For the past 14 months, workers have been preparing the site by collecting and recording artefacts and securing it. Now, an application for resource consent – the legal authority to begin work – has been lodged with Christchurch City Council for the first phase of the work to reinstate the building.

The application has been made by Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited, a joint venture company established by the diocese and the Crown – the name used to describe the New Zealand government – to manage the process.

If granted, the permission for this “stabilisation” phase of the reinstatement will allow for the deconstruction of some parts of the building to manage collapse hazards and to allow access to the building for stabilisation works and for salvage and investigation works. The application also seeks permission to extend the boundary of the works site into Cathedral Square and the construction of a temporary two-story site office.

“The removal of the newer additions to the Cathedral is required to allow safer and faster access to stabilise the older parts of the Cathedral”, the joint venture company said on its website. “Without removing some parts of the building . . . the stabilisation and subsequent reinstatement works would take longer, cost more and require major interruption to the road network adjacent to the site, including pedestrian areas and the tram operation.”

Explaining the need to expand the site into Cathedral Square, the company said that “the size of the Cathedral site is limited by the road boundary to the north, south and east of the Cathedral. The site is constrained.  It is not safe to work in the collapse zone immediately around the Cathedral building until the most dangerous parts of the building have been deconstructed, removed or propped.

“Works will involve the use of large machinery on site.  There also needs to be sufficient space for vehicles to access and exit the site safely, for site offices, and space to store some materials.

“For these reasons, the proposed site occupies more of Cathedral Square at the western end of the Cathedral.  The construction site hoarding will move up to 12 metres into Cathedral Square on the western side.  This increase is the minimum amount required to enable an efficient reinstatement. Cathedral Square will still be able to function in much the same way.”

The company said that it was beneficial to begin the stabilisation phase of the reinstatement even though the final plans for that are still being developed. “The stabilisation design has reached a point where stabilisation can begin, once resource consent is granted,” they said. “Stabilisation is the first major step in the physical reinstatement process.  It will protect against further earthquake damage, enable access to areas that are currently inaccessible.  This will allow detailed inspections and investigations that are needed to inform the next stages of the project.

“Stabilisation will also help to protect the Cathedral from weather and to minimise any further deterioration of the heritage fabric.”

The work to reinstate the cathedral is expected to last at least ten years, with around 100 personnel working on the site.