Christ Church Cathedral runs out of money, project could be mothballed

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Apr 05, 2024 |


If more funding to reinstate Christ Church Cathedral is not secured by August, then the project will be indefinitely mothballed, Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited announced today.

This is despite the fact that rate payers were forced to contribute $10 million to the project in 2017, under Lianne Dalziel’s leadership, despite a majority of public opposition.

Chair Mark Stewart said “This is an incredibly challenging position to be in, particularly when we are more than a third of the way through the entire reinstatement.

“Last year we instigated a comprehensive review of the costs and timeline of the reinstatement programme. March last year was the first time we had full access to the inside of the Cathedral since the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. Gaining access gave us new information and we felt it prudent to initiate a full project review.

“With safe, unconstrained access to the Cathedral we undertook further extensive investigation to validate assumptions and consideration of the work required to strengthen and reinstate the Cathedral. While we did this, we deliberately slowed work on the site.

“With the knowledge gained from the project review it became apparent that continuing the original project workplan would be too expensive and represent too much risk.

“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.

“By doing this the overall cost of the project is now $248 million. We are confident we can raise a further $26 million of fund raising, on top of the $24 million raised so far.”

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

Stewart said they need $30 million that they can access by September 2024, so strengthening can continue.

“We then need further funding to allow us to complete the reinstatement by October 2031. We are managing our remaining funds carefully in the meantime to maintain operations.

“In addition to the generosity of our current and potential donors, we have briefed the government and initiated discussion with the Christchurch City Council about funding options.”

Christchurch Mayor, Phil Mauger said the Cathedral Reinstatement company team has advised him of the situation they are in.

“Resolving this will take the combined efforts of the charitable company, the church, the city and central 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.”

Mark Stewart said the Minister of Finance, Nicola Willis was briefed about the longer-term funding issues and understands the situation.

“While the Cathedral is a place of worship for the Anglican Church, it is also an important civic and heritage building and a well-used community space. We recently commissioned New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) to estimate the total economic value of reinstating Christ Church Cathedral. They estimated that the reinstated Cathedral could result in additional tourism spending of up to $20.8 million per year.

“The NZIER report stated that there has been around $1 billion of private and public sector investment in the streets around Cathedral Square since the earthquake, and a further $1 billion is planned for the next 10 years. They report that the Cathedral reinstatement will unlock the full value of these investments and support the wider regeneration of Christchurch.”

Mark Stewart said the reinstatement project has been and remains very complex.

“Essentially our assumptions at the start of the project were based on what advice we knew from experts and initial investigations. Getting inside the Cathedral in March last year was the last piece of the puzzle informing our design and construction methodology.

“Unfortunately, some of our early assumptions were proven wrong. For example, once inside the Cathedral we realised that the foundations were not as deep as perimeter foundations or as indicated in the 1881 drawing and the ground investigations raised more issues against assumed sequence and method of work for the foundations.

“Dewatering tests were also conducted late last year in the region of the tower that highlighted a unique anomaly creating challenges in the construction of the deeper foundation beneath the tower. This was despite obtaining a consent and carrying out dewater trials to the east in 2022, we could not have foreseen this problem happening, nor that it would occur in the worst possible locations. This has had a serious impact on the method, time and risk associated with the base of the tower and the lowered courtyard.

“Finally, we have been able to scope and quantify the amount of masonry work required to complete the project and obtained cost assessments in association with our masons. These figures indicate a much greater scope and time than allowed for in the estimate.

“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. On reflection, our risks allowances associated with this part of the design, even though based on best advice, was under assessed in the previous cost estimates.
“We established a sub-committee to support the project review, and this was led by two of CCRL’s directors, retired Fulton Hogan chief executive Lindsay Crossen and leading New Zealand construction executive Brian Nightingale. The project review has resulted in a comprehensive understanding of programme, cost and residual risks, including resourcing issues, construction methods and sequences for completing the reinstatement.

“Rawlinsons have worked with our main contractor Naylor Love to review all aspects of the cost estimate and the overall reinstatement design. The revised estimate has been reviewed by Beca.

“Graeme Earl from Naylor Love Canterbury, says the stabilisation works were challenging, and unfortunately took longer than first envisaged, mainly due to the many access and sequencing constraints along with the understandable stability concerns.

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

Bishop Peter Carrell said the Anglican Church continues to look for further funding but understands the very difficult situation the project is facing.

“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.

“The Cathedral is integral to our Diocese, and we want it open again to serve the people of Christchurch and the many visitors to our region. I am heartened by recent research that shows that the local passion for the building is strong, with 74 per cent of residents surveyed considering the Cathedral essential to the city’s future and 62 per cent wanting it rebuilt.

The Cathedral would not have been built in 1881 without the full weight of the community behind it. It is now critical we demonstrate the same leadership as our 19th century Canterbury pioneers in returning the Cathedral to life.”

Mark Stewart said a mothballed scenario will create a raft of issues and will cost millions. If the Cathedral is mothballed, it will be hidden from view, and people will not be able to visit it, or preserve it, because it will remain a construction site in suspension.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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