Christ Church Cathedral restoration to be halted unless $30m urgently found

Restoration work on the cathedral in Ōtautahi/Christchurch could stop unless $30 million can be urgently found, according to the company leading the reinstatement.

Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited (CCRL), made the announcement on Saturday, following the release of a report by the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER).

CCRL chair Mark Stewart said it's a tough position to be in.

"We are more than a third of the way through the entire reinstatement," he said.

The cathedral was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquakes.

He said CCRL launched a review of costs and the timeline for its reinstatement after gaining access in March last year - the first time since the earthquakes.

"Gaining access gave us new information and we felt it prudent to initiate a full project review."

The report estimated a fully-reinstated cathedral could boost tourism spending by up to $20.8m per year.

But it became clear the original restoration would be too costly and risky, Stewart said.

"On the recommendation from the project review team, the CCRL Board has decided to reduce the scope, cost and risk of the project by removing the deep foundation for the tower and the lower courtyard, thus mitigating that risk."

The overall cost of reinstatement under the new plan would be $248m.

Stewart said CCRL is confident it can raise a further $26m, after already securing $24m.

"The Bishop has committed to securing additional contributions from the Anglican Church of $16 million, leaving a funding gap of $114 million," he added.

He said $30m is needed by September, and further funds by October 2031 to finish the job.

"We are managing our remaining funds carefully in the meantime to maintain operations."

Stewart said CCRL had briefed Finance Minister Nicola Willis about the long-term funding woes, and was also in talks with Christchurch City Council.

"Philanthropy alone will not provide sufficient funds to complete the project."

Meanwhile, Phil Mauger, mayor of Ōtautahi/Christchurch, said resolving the issue will take efforts by CCRL, the church, the council, and Government.

"Many of our residents, businesses and visitors will see the Cathedral as the final piece of the rebuild. But we must acknowledge that the financial pressure all of these groups are under at the moment will make this challenging," he said.

A render of the restored cathedral if $248m worth of remediation works go ahead.
A render of the restored cathedral if $248m worth of remediation works go ahead. Photo credit: Supplied.

Why did costs blow out?

Some cost blowouts were due to the foundations of the cathedral being shallower than the perimeter foundations, and problems also arose with construction of the deeper foundations beneath the cathedral's tower. 

There were also challenges with lowering the courtyard, and the masonry work required is now much more expensive than first thought.

"All of these points have had a serious impact on the methods, time and risk associated with the base of the tower and the lowered courtyard," Stewart said.

Graeme Earl from Naylor Love Waitaha/Canterbury also said stabilisation works were challenging and took longer than expected.

"The revised budget and timetable as part of the project review is now reflective of what we, the collaborative team of designers and constructors now know, and inclusive of revised design/sequencing solutions to recognise and minimise the impacts of risk," Earl said.

Bishop Peter Carrell said the Anglican Church is looking for more funding but understands the situation.

"Mothballing the Cathedral is something we hoped we would never have to contemplate – and we are optimistic of finding a solution to avoid this situation," he said.

Stewart said halting work on the cathedral would cost millions.