Signs of progress with cranes and workmen beavering over the long-crumbled remains of Christchurch's earthquake-crippled Christ Church Cathedral are lifting the spirits of sightseers and passers-by.
The Gothic-style 138-year-old Anglican cathedral was badly damaged in the 6.3-magnitude February 22, 2011, quake that devastated the Garden City.
For the past eight years, the central city's most celebrated landmark site has lain in rubble and ruins, the cathedral's spire snapped in half, and its future dividing the recovering city.
But last year, the Government and Anglican Diocese of Christchurch agreed a funding and joint-venture deal for a $104 million restoration in what was anticipated by Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods to be a project which will take between seven and 10 years to complete.
Two large cranes have rumbled onto the fenced-off site in the past month to help remove steel framing that has propped up the front of the Cathedral for several years.
Work to remove loose material around the roof and temporary steel structure began earlier this month.
"Our aim is for the steel framing to be deconstructed by early February, in time for the installation of the new Anglican Bishop," said Keith Paterson, project director for Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited (CCRL).
Loose material lodged between the steel structure and the remaining west wall will be removed, and any heritage material will be identified and sorted.
"The work we are undertaking on site will make the front of the Cathedral – referred to as the western porch area – safer for subsequent investigations and will help us to better understand the scope of the deconstruction of the porch," Paterson said.
"It will, of course, also improve the look of the Cathedral from the front, which we're pleased about and I'm sure many in Christchurch will be too."
The work is attracting the eye and cameras of many tourists and locals wandering through Cathedral Square.
"We heard about the quake and the poor cathedral, obviously, and we were told nothing had been done to fix it up so it's heartening to see such progress happening here today," said Jon Macdonald, a British tourist, today.
Another said: "It's very cool. The city will be better for having it back."
The cathedral, which had its nave consecrated in 1881, withstood violent earthquakes that year, and then in 1888, 1901, 1922 and September 4, 2010.