Work upgrading Auckland's historic St James Theatre is continuing, despite the cancellation of a $250 million associated apartment tower, a key figure in the project says.

Steve Bielby, co-developer of the planned 39-level St James Suites abandoned last year, said today that the Queen St theatre restoration was on track.

"Works are still happening at the theatre in my absence," he said, referring to being away from June 30 till September 18.

A seismic upgrade, new roof, new lighting, installation of fire sprinkler systems, new air handling systems, new seats and new carpet are planned at the theatre.


The Herald reported last year that it could reopen as early as this year but that now seems unlikely.

Bielby described what had been achieved so far, fixing the theatre's walls and ascertaining the scope of further works at the building, constructed in 1928 and opened in 1929.

"The north and east walls have been fully repaired. The investigation works have been 95 per cent completed," he said.

In November 2015, Auckland Council agreed to pay $15 million towards the $60m to $70m cost of restoring the heritage building.

Bielby said today that repairs would stop soon.

"Work will shortly halt while the final design is consented. Then it is our intent to get into more of the ground works and new base isolation system which we have already purchased the isolators for and are in New Zealand," he said, referring to the seismic system.

In December, Relianz Holdings abandoned the 39-level, 309-unit St James Suites on Queen St beside the historic theatre due to funding issues.

Relianz is a vehicle of Auckland-based Lijun Li and his family which bought the theatre and adjacent land. Part of the planned new tower was to be used to make the St James compliant on aspects such as access and toilets.

A Relianz statement out just before Christmas spelt out the issues which caused the tower to be cancelled.

"Relianz Holdings LP (Relianz), the developer of the St James Suites project, says despite significant efforts to secure replacement funding to allow the project to progress, difficult lending market conditions mean it has not been able to reach a feasible solution. Unfortunately, this means the St James Suites apartment development is not currently viable and the development is on hold until further notice," the statement said.

Relianz would honour its commitment to the council to complete structural and seismic works for the restoration of the St James Theatre, it said.

But financial institutions had tightened their lending activity to apartment developers, affecting a number of Auckland apartment projects, Relianz said.

"St James Suites co-developer Steve Bielby says buyers will receive their deposits back in full, plus interest," the December statement said.