Frequently Asked Questions


Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Project

Frequently Asked Questions as at October 2020

What is the background to the Cathedral?

Christ Church Cathedral is an Anglican Cathedral, built to the Glory of God and for all people.  It is the iconic symbol of Christchurch/Ōtautahi and an important part of the city’s colonial history.

Christchurch was the first city in New Zealand. To be granted city status by Royal Charter in 1856 it needed to have an Anglican cathedral (the seat of a Bishop). Read more.

What happened to the Cathedral?

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch on 22 February 2011, taking the lives of 185 people, injuring many others, and destroying homes and businesses.

The tower of Christ Church Cathedral toppled, causing major damage to the front of the Cathedral, western porch and adjacent walls.  The main Cathedral building was damaged. The Cathedral building (not the tower and spire) had been seismically strengthened, which saved it from total collapse.

Fortunately, there was no loss of life or serious injury in the Cathedral itself.

The Cathedral was damaged again in the June and December 2011 aftershocks. It is currently unsafe to enter.

What is involved in the reinstatement project?

The project is reinstating the Cathedral so that it looks very similar to before the earthquakes, retaining many heritage features.  It will be made significantly safer, more comfortable and more flexible.

When did the decision to reinstate the Cathedral get made?

The Cathedral is important to the city and the passion around the building meant its future took some time to decide.

Following a long discussion and technical investigations, and an offer of support from the Government and Christchurch City Council, the Diocesan Synod (the decision-making body for the Anglican church) agreed to the reinstatement of the Cathedral and a company was formed to deliver the project.

Find out more.

Why is the Cathedral being reinstated?

In the heart of our city there is no place like it. It was and will again be:

  • A spiritual and sacred place for worshipping and celebrating; for listening and debating; for laughter and tears.
  • An unconditionally welcoming place for people of all faiths and none.
  • An iconic place for Christchurch, Canterbury and New Zealand.
  • A historic place for memories, stories, heritage and taonga.
  • A civic place for the events that shape us as a city.
  • A popular place where hundreds of thousands of people visit each year.
  • An important place for a thriving central city.

What does ‘reinstatement’ mean?

Reinstatement is a combination of repair, restoration, reconstruction/rebuild and seismic strengthening.  For most people the main Cathedral building will look much the same as it did pre-earthquake. It will retain many of its heritage features and much of the gothic revival design, and where practicable, the original materials will be re-used. Some partial deconstruction will likely be required to make the building safe for future reinstatement.

When did the reinstatement project start?

The project began in late 2018 and is now well advanced.

How long will the project take?

The project is expected to take seven to ten years.  It is anticipated to finish in early 2028.

What are the key steps in the project?

Step 1—Making the most of the opportunity. What modern techniques and technologies can we implement cost-effectively, while respecting the heritage of the Cathedral?

Step 2—Developing the plan to physically stabilise the building to make it safe to work on.  We need to work out the right methods and the right order.

Step 3—Physically stabilising the building. There was a blessing of the site and workers in May 2020 and shortly after the construction site was established and preparation for stabilisation began.   Stabilisation will take 18 to 24 months.

Step 4—Strengthening and reinstating. We’ll be strengthening the Main Cathedral structure and reconfiguring it internally for modern worship and civic functions.

Step 5—The finishing touches. This includes finishing the tower and creating a visitor’s centre.

What is the cost of the project?

The projected cost is $154.3 million.

What makes up the cost?

The Cathedral itself including stabilisation will cost $127.4m. The Visitors’ and Cathedral Centres will cost $15.7m, and the Tower will cost $11.2m.

What is the Cathedral Maintenance and Insurance Fund?

An insurance and maintenance fund of $12.9 million is required to help ensure the newly reinstated Cathedral begins operating from a strong financial position, sufficient to cover insurance and maintenance costs.

Why is the cost higher than the 2017 $104 Cathedral Working Group estimate?

  • That estimate was based largely on engineering feasibility and the assumed retention of the ancillary buildings and vestries. It was not able to fully take account of the complexities of a safe build sequence and other site constraints, simply because there was not enough information available.
  • We now have much more information on which to base the cost estimate, and a defined functional brief outlining how the reinstatement will equip the Cathedral appropriately for the future.

How is project cost being managed?

  • Considerable effort is focused on delivering the project as cost-effectively as possible.
  • The project team is working hard to find the best solutions, to determine what is possible, achievable and affordable, and to remain flexible as things change, which they inevitably do.
  • Cost saving initiatives include things like:
  • Having a motivated team of consultants, contractors and sub-contractors procured on a best for project basis with fair contracts
  • Beginning physical work as soon as possible
  • Looking at ways to reduce the overall length of the project by overlapping the work as much as possible
  • Strengthening as many walls in place as possible by way of grouting and pinning, because this is cheaper than deconstructing and reconstructing walls
  • Providing multiple work faces so if problems are encountered at one place resources can be redeployed
  • Creating collaborative project delivery arrangements where the focus for everyone is value for money, innovation and productivity.

What is the fundraising target?

The target is $51.2 million.

Is the current phase of work funded?

Physical work is underway. The current phase, stabilisation, will take up to two years and this is fully funded ($11.8 million).

When is the next fundraising milestone and how much will be needed?

  • The next phase of the project is strengthening and reinstatement. Funding for this will need to be in place by late 2021.
  • After that the next fundraising milestones are in mid-2022 for the ancillary buildings, and in mid-2023 for the Tower, based on the current project programme.

What is the strategy for fundraising?

  • The Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Trust was established to help the Diocese raise the additional funds. It is using an approach to fundraising known as Capital Campaigning.
  • We are currently in the ‘quiet’ phase of the campaign and this involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work to engage with early supporters of the campaign.
  • This strategy calls on people to commit to a gift and to encourage others they know to join them. A peer to peer campaign works well amongst individuals, as they are already connected and have a trusted relationship, thus encouraging gifts to the campaign. It also allows people to collaborate, so that they can make a meaningful impact related to what they value about the Cathedral.
  • We aim to go ‘public’ once we have secured a large amount of the total funds required. Once we go public, we will be relying on many people to contribute to the success of our campaign, through their love and passion for the Cathedral.

Who is involved in this project?

The key partners are detailed here.  There are also highly experienced and committed consultants and contractors involved for key functions.

What’s happening to the organ?

The existing organ is still inside the Cathedral, which is unsafe to enter at this time.  It was refurbished just prior to the earthquakes, but its existing condition is unknown.  It will be removed, repaired and reinstated.

What’s happening to the Cathedral bells?

The 13 bells were sent back to the English Midlands town of Loughborough, where they were originally cast in 1978, for checking, polishing and new fittings. Many of the dents on the bells were deliberately kept as part of their earthquake story.  An additional bell was made in memory of those who died in the earthquake. The bells are in storage.  Watch a video about the significance of the bells to Cathedral life.   Watch a video and listen to the bells.

What’s happening with the trees?

The trees will be cared for and maintained during the project, for example through regular pruning. We are hoping to produce progeny from the London Plane Trees through grafting.  One of the trees (south of the Cathedral) was planted in 1884 at the time of consecration.

The project team recognises the significance of the listed trees on the Cathedral site.  A qualified arborist has developed work plans that help to protect the trees from damage during works, in accordance with an approved Tree Maintenance and Management Plan.  This plan includes restrictions around how close people and machinery can get to the tree, for example, so the drip line and canopy is not disturbed.

What’s happening with the Citizen’s War Memorial?

On 10 December 2020 Christchurch City Council decided to accept the gift of the Citizens’ War Memorial from Church Property Trustees (CPT).  Council also agreed to locate the Memorial to a site in Cathedral Square, near where the old Police Kiosk building is located.

CPT will prepare and lodge resource and building consent applications for the relocation of the memorial and commit the balance of funds from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust to making the move happen.

Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited will deconstruct the memorial and prepare the component parts for transport and storage.

What about other artefacts?

As much as possible was retrieved from the Cathedral, including the plate, Eucharistic garments, banners and altar frontals. Almost all stained glass windows (except the Rose Window which was extensively damaged) were removed and are stored safely. The Tukutuku wall panels were also removed and are in storage.

Some of the retrieved items are being used in the Transitional Cathedral, such as the Bishops chair (Cathedra), the eagle Lectern and the altar frontals.

The items that have been removed were not in the main cathedral and access was only permitted under Engineer’s supervision shortly after the February 2011 earthquake.  After another large aftershock in June 2011 no further access was allowed.

What couldn’t be retrieved?

The congregational chairs are still in the Cathedral. Many have been damaged, but some are intact.

The Carrington altar is still inside. Its condition will be determined as the reinstatement progresses. On the walls, most of the encaustic tiling, inscribed panels and plaques appear to be intact.

Once the building has been stabilised and made safe to enter we’ll be able to access what remains in the Cathedral and determine what might be salvageable.

Who will own/be responsible for the Cathedral once it is rebuilt?

The Cathedral will be handed back to Church Property Trustees, which owns the Cathedral on behalf of the Christchurch Anglican Diocese, once the project is complete, and the Cathedral will once again be occupied by the Dean, Chapter and Cathedral community.

Where do people worship while the Cathedral is closed?

Services are being held at the Transitional Cathedral at 234 Hereford Street in Latimer Square. It is open daily from 9.00am and closes at 5.00pm or at the conclusion of the evening service.

Find out more.

Who is the Royal Patron for the project?

We are delighted to have the support of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales as the project’s Royal Patron.  The patronage recognises the significance of the Cathedral for Anglican worship in Canterbury, as a heritage treasure, and an icon.   Watch the Royal Visit in November 2019.

How are you managing safety on the project?

The Cathedral is a construction site except for a small exclusion zone.  Everyone who goes into the construction site must wear a hard hat, safety glasses, a hi-viz vest and safety boots, to help keep them safe and easy to see.  For some tasks additional safety equipment is needed.

How does the project fit in with plans for Cathedral Square?

The Project team is working with Christchurch City Council, neighbours and others around plans for the Square.

The Cathedral is a major tourist attraction, attracting 700,000 visitors annually pre-earthquake.  In recognition of this, the project includes the development of a new Visitors’ Centre which is likely to attract even more people.  We are also looking at what we can do during the reinstatement, so that people can see what’s happening and access plenty of information.  More information about the integration with Cathedral Square is available in the Concept Design.

How can I donate?

Donations are welcome.

  • Send cheques to: Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Trust, PO Box 21063, Edgeware, Christchurch 8143.  Include your name and address for a receipt.
  • Donate in person at the Transitional Cathedral, 234 Hereford St, Christchurch.  Mention your donation is for reinstatement.
  • Donate online.
  • There will be a public fundraising campaign in the future.  We’ll let people know when the campaign is launched.

How can I stay up to date with what’s happening?

Subscribe to our e-newsletter by scrolling to the bottom of the Contact us page.

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