Christ Church Cathedral- Deputation To The CCC Earthquake Forum by Rob Hall, GM SouthernN.Z.H.P.T.

Rob Hall has generously provided us with the text of his Deputation to the C.C.C. Earthquake Forum.

CCC Earthquake Forum: Cathedral Church of Christ (Christchurch Cathedral)

Deputation: Rob Hall, General Manager (Southern), NZHPT                                                 


0930,21 March 2013               Council Chambers, Civic Offices, 53 Hereford Street




Thank you to the Council for offering this opportunity to come along this morning.


Because of the significance of the Cathedral, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust has encouraged consideration of all practicable retention options. In considering these, we are very aware of the need to take safety considerations as well as financial into account.




The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has a statutory role to play as part of the process in deciding the future of the Cathedral. The Historic Places Act 1993 provides protection for archaeological sites and is administered by us. An archaeological site is defined as any place associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there is material evidence relating to the history of New Zealand.  Authority from the NZHPT is required to destroy, damage or modify an archaeological site.  All applications that relate to works affecting archaeological sites that meet the purposes of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 must be considered under the provisions of the Canterbury Earthquake (Historic Places Act) Order 2011.


Under those provisions, the NZHPT must make a decision no later than three working days after having received a complete application.  To date, an Archaeology Authority for ‘making safe’ has been granted to permit work on the Cathedral spire. No application for an Authority for more general demolition has been received.


We have maintained a working relationship with the Church and other parties with an interest in the Cathedral and we continue to work with these groups, to find a solution that is technically feasible.


The GCBT Proposal

The Greater Christchurch Building Trust’s engineering proposal focuses on stabilising the building. It takes an approach that will support the existing building fabric while allowing flexibility for changes to be made to plans as more is known about the building and its requirements for stabilisation.


This is one option and the most detailed one that has been made available to us that lays out a plan to stabilise the building.  We’ve had our structural engineer, review these drawings and we believe that the proposal does provide a sound basis to stabilise the building structure and provide for the safety of people working on site, although some detail needs to be clarified if this proposal were to be adopted.


As a result of the engineers meeting, held on 11 March we have fed back to both CPT and the GCBT the areas in the proposal that require more work.


The GCBT concept shows how external and internal steel frames can be progressively fabricated and installed in a way that minimises risk to construction personnel during installation of the frames. This will be critical in the event of a moderate to major earthquake event.  A full safety assessment of any option will need to be considered by CERA.


Once stabilized and made safe, retention of significant elements of the original building will be viable allowing further exploration of incorporating appropriately strengthened parts of the existing building into a partial new build that could meet future functional requirements.

While damage has occurred to the eastern end of the Cathedral, this is significantly less compared to the nave and aisles and can readily be repaired and strengthening with the use of techniques and materials developed and proven internationally as well as in New Zealand.

There are significant historical precedents with the rebuild of churches to be feasible if time, which in some cases is decades, is permitted for the necessary fundraising and re-construction.  The NZHPT considers that a solution could be managed over time, with project staging to match the availability of funding.


Our Recommended Course of Action

In my opinion, it is unlikely that there will be a contribution of central Government funding given the size of this project and other similar situations being faced by other churches and organisations.

If effective re-engagement of all parties is not forthcoming, the chances of recovering valuable artefacts will diminish; money from a number of organisations will continue to be spent unnecessarily on legal advisors, public relations and other consultants, and potential sources of funding will be lost.

To avoid on-going costs and significant delays in doing anything on the site, a compromise solution must be sought between all stakeholders. This will require on-going discussions between the CPT, GCBT, CCC, CERA and NZHPT. Ideally the solution will retain sufficient heritage value to meet with approval, ensure life safety and be capable of being funded.


Due to the legal challenges to CPT, it has been difficult to effect discussions between key members of these two groups to try and reach a compromise.  A more effective communications plan needs to be considered to allow trust to be rebuilt and the exchange of ideas to be made.  NZHPT has made an offer to assist with this.

While it remains uncertain whether all the funding can be raised, it seems reasonable to assume that GCBT can raise a significant contribution.  Their option of raising funds is the only financial offer of help at this time that would enable the Cathedral to be stabilised and its future made clearer.   This may have the effect of setting a positive way forward, which would assist in raising money for subsequent phases of reinstatement of a Cathedral on the site.



A staged approach, where stabilisation is undertaken as the first part of site works, to match the fundraising may have significant success.

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