Christchurch RSA has applied to move its city centre cenotaph which has been cut-off to the public since the deadly 2011 earthquake.

The Christchurch Memorial Returned and Services Association (RSA), the first and oldest RSA in New Zealand, wants to ensure public access to the Citizens' War Memorial by relocating it from Christ Church Cathedral to Cranmer Square.

It's estimated the resource consent process, strengthening and repair, and shifting of the William Trethewey sculptured memorial, considered to be one of New Zealand's most significant war memorials, could cost as much as $1.2 million.

Land Information New Zealand (Linz) says it will stump up $200,000, with another $543,000 from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust, and up to $500,000 from Church Property Trustees (CPT), which owns the memorial on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.

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No money will come from Christchurch ratepayers.

"Relocation will allow safe, unimpeded public access to the memorial while the Christ Church Cathedral is reinstated," says Christchurch RSA president Pete Dawson.

"Since the 2011 February earthquake, the memorial has been inaccessible for people to pay their respects, apart from limited access on Anzac Day."

The RSA will apply for resource consent later this year to move the memorial to its preferred spot at Cranmer Square, which has a long history of association with the military, including the holding of military events.

The first Anzac Day commemoration was held in Cranmer Square in 1916 and then every year until 1937 when the Citizens' War Memorial was erected in Cathedral Square to commemorate the 4398 Cantabrians who died in World War I.

The Christchurch RSA wants to move the Citizens' War Memorial (pictured here in 2006) from Christ Church Cathedral to Cranmer Square. Photo / Supplied
The Christchurch RSA wants to move the Citizens' War Memorial (pictured here in 2006) from Christ Church Cathedral to Cranmer Square. Photo / Supplied

Since the February 22, 2011 quake, the city square has again hosted Anzac Day dawn services.

"We understand some people might be opposed to the relocation and we will contact them to explain our views," Dawson says.

"We will also hold community drop-in sessions at the RSA for people to learn more about why Cranmer Square is the most appropriate setting for the memorial."

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Bishop of Christchurch Diocese Peter Carrell said the CPT will gift ownership of the memorial to the citizens of Christchurch following relocation.

"What many people might not know is that in 1934, when the Cathedral Chapter and Church Property Trustees agreed a war memorial could be placed on the grass plot on the north side of the Christ Church Cathedral, it was on the condition 'that if at any time in the future the land be required for Cathedral purposes the memorial shall be removed without expense to the Chapter or Cathedral funds'," he said.

"Relocation is consistent with the original agreement between the Christchurch War Memorial Association Inc, the Church Property Trustees and the Cathedral Chapter and will ensure the safety of the Citizens' War Memorial.

"The relocation will also allow repair and strengthening work to be carried out on the memorial. There is some damage due to the earthquakes and significantly corroded steel beneath the memorial's surface."

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said it was a shame that such a significant part of the city's heritage has been locked away from public view for so long.

Heritage New Zealand supports the proposed relocation as it will facilitate the reinstatement of the cathedral and enable appropriate long term public access to the war memorial.

Sheila Watson, director, Southern Region Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, said that once it was relocated, the memorial would still have heritage values and the historic list entry would be "amended to reflect the values of its new location".