Restoration work on the earthquake-crippled Christ Church Cathedral will begin within weeks – more than seven years after it was damaged in the deadly Christchurch disaster.
Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods made the announcement in the shadow of the rubble today that consent for work to begin was granted by Christchurch City Council this morning.
The Government and the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch have been in discussions since September over a funding and joint-venture deal for a $104 million restoration of the Gothic-style 136-year-old cathedral.
It's been more than seven years since the landmark building was badly damaged in the 6.3-magnitude February 2011 earthquake that devastated the Garden City.
Woods said agreement was reached in principle on the joint-venture terms after complex negotiations spanning a number of months.
Christchurch-based Justin Murray has also been appointed an independent chair of Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited (CCRL) - the official name of the joint-venture company.
"Justin will be a strong leader to steer the delivery of the project and deliver results. With agreement from all parties involved, we can now begin the important work of reinstating this local icon," Woods said.
"I am anticipating, thanks to the work the Church Property Trustees has already done, that the site clearance and decontamination work will start by the end of July, subject to regulatory approvals. This comes ahead of pre-construction site work that will be undertaken by the joint venture."
Woods expected "people on the ground beginning what everyone wants to see" - the start of the historic site being cleaning up – over the next few weeks.
Woods said it was a 7-10 year project.
The next steps, Woods said today, is for other directors to be appointed and the joint venture company to look at finalising the concept design, scope of works, project budget and time-frames. It's expected that work will take least 3-6 months.
"The ultimate goal for all concerned is to return this important historical and cultural icon to the people of Canterbury and New Zealand," said Woods.
"Like many Cantabrians, I look forward to one day seeing the cathedral connected again to the square in a vibrant way, being able to function again for the worship and spiritual purposes of the church, as well as offer an attractive, safe and viable space for civic and other functions."
Chair of the government-appointed Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Trust Peter Guthrey said today is a "poignant moment".
"The joint-venture agreement is an incredibly detailed document. It was vital that we took the time to get it right, and we are confident that we have," Guthrey said.
The Very Rev'd Lawrence Kimberley, Dean of the Transitional Cathedral and CPT deputy chair Moka Ritchie both welcomed the news.
Arguments over whether the building in the heart of Christchurch should be restored to its former glory, partly reinstated, or demolished and replaced with a modern new building have raged between the church, heritage campaigners and the wider public over the past seven-and-a-half years.
The 131-year-old cathedral withstood violent earthquakes in 1881, 1888, 1922, 1901 and even September 4 2010.