The owner of a quake-damaged historic Christchurch villa has taken one of New Zealand's biggest insurers to court after repair estimates topped $3 million.

The debate over costs to repair Elizabeth Drayton's beloved Category-1 listed property reached the High Court in Christchurch today after nearly six years of wrangling.

Drayton claims that her insurer, IAG New Zealand, the parent company of State, offered a strategy to repair the badly-damaged house with a fixed quote of $1.84 million.

However, she says reviews of the repair strategy which took into account associated costs, put the rebuild at $3.1m.

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She feels she has been left no option but to take IAG NZ to court.

Drayton became emotional in court today when describing how the heritage property was devastated in the September 2010 and February 2011 tremors.

The double-brick villa, in the suburb of St Albans, was built in 1899 by master builders and bricklayers, brothers Harry and Philip Soanes, as a luxury showhome to exhibit their high-level workmanship.

Drayton fell in love with the house, with its Kauri floors and doors, Victorian veranda, Marseille roof tiles, stained glass, arches, and detailed brick corbels, after returning from London where she had renovated three Victorian properties.

She bought the property in 2004 and moved in soon after, naming it "Soanes House" and sculpting award-winning gardens.

With her father being a founding member of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, now known as Heritage New Zealand, Drayton told the court she had a "strong sense of responsibility to its heritage" and carried out $250,000-worth of renovations over 2007-09, including strengthening its roof.

But when the giant magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck Canterbury in the early hours of September 4, 2010, the villa suffered extensive interior and exterior damage.

The Boxing Day 2010 aftershock caused more cracking before the deadly February 22, 2011 jolt smashed it even more.

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Drayton told the court that in June 2012, she met with IAG NZ where it was agreed that one quantity surveyor would determine the repair price for cash settlement. She would then get the repairs done herself.

In January 2014, costings were prepared by a quantity surveyor but Drayton claims that IAG were not happy with them and wanted a peer review.

A year later, a quantity surveyor assessed the repairs to be $1.5m, the court heard.

An original peer review put the repair costs at $1.9m before escalating to $2.6m.

But Drayton says that in May last year, IAG came up with new strategy for repair with fixed quote of $1.8m.

She ordered a review of the strategy by the original quantity surveyor who took into account associated costs that Drayton says were not considered by IAG, which spiralled the repair bill to $3.1m.

The case, before Justice Rachel Dunningham, is set down for 7–8 days.