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Cathedral update from Fr Rick Loughnan, Diocesan Administrator

21st October 2016


Since May 28, 2015, the key messages from the Diocese in relation to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament are that the Diocese believes it could save the nave of the Cathedral and progressively build back other parts over time. This rebuild work, however, was conditional on the state of the nave and the land underneath. The Diocese also had to consider the widespread repair and rebuild work that would be needed across many of its parishes.
The late Bishop Barry Jones set aside a maximum sum of $45 million ($30m from the Diocese and $15m from fundraising) for saving the nave of the Cathedral.
In July this year preliminary geotechnic and engineering reports were positive concerning the land and foundations on which the Catholic Cathedral sits.


Further, ongoing investigations have revealed that the entire Cathedral can be saved but at a much greater cost currently estimated to be approximately $100m.
In order to make a recommendation to the new Bishop, all aspects in relation to the project, as well as the potential for fundraising must be taken into account.  It is envisaged that major fundraising for a restored Cathedral would have a national and international focus and be supported by heritage and other funding.


The ultimate decision about whether we proceed in this direction will be left to the new Bishop, when he is appointed.
We will continue to explore this scenario to provide the Bishop with a recommendation,  including the need for fundraising $70m for the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and $15m for work in the parishes.  The late Bishop Barry had already engaged Fundraisers (AskRIGHT) who are optimistic of our ability to do this.
Fr Rick Loughnan
Diocesan Administrator


Cathedral Update – July 11, 2016

The Catholic Diocese is still on track to make a decision on the future of the Cathedral in September, as planned.
Preliminary geotechnic and engineering reports on the land and foundations on which the Catholic Cathedral sits are positive.
The repair techniques proposed are also being ratified.
The late Bishop Barry Jones, when making his initial decision last year to attempt to ‘save the nave,’ decreed that this would have to be done within a budget cap of $45 million. This cap was set in place to ensure that there would be sufficient funding, including the insurance proceeds, to meet the needs of the cathedral and all parishes in the Diocese.
Fundraising is the challenge we now face and our attention is fully focused on ensuring that we are able to achieve the first steps in rebuilding the cathedral by ‘saving the nave’ inside this budget.
Once the investigations into the costs of ‘saving the nave’ are complete, only then will we be making a statement on the future of the cathedral. As indicated earlier, that is still expected to be in September.
Andy Doherty

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Click here to view photos of the Cathedral

Clearing work starts on the Cathedral – December 2015

Clearing work around the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament  has commenced as on-going investigations into the viability of saving the nave of the cathedral pick up pace.
Several containers have been removed, many artefacts have been catalogued and put into safe storage and much of the site is now clear. A new fence is being built around the perimeter of the site.
Keith Beal, Property and Development Manager for the Diocese, said that coupled with the work being carried out on site, investigations were continuing behind the scenes.
The Design Team for the initial stage has been appointed with Alec Bruce as architect and engineers Jamie Lester (OPUS) and Grant Wilkinson (Ruamoko) working on the detail of the concept designs. Sir Miles Warren continues to contribute advice and recommendations to the team.
Supporting the design effort are Carole-Lynne Kerrigan (CLK Heritage), Site Safe and Rawlinsons. Naylor Love is assisting with the initial site establishment.
“Once we had the team in place and thanks to Sir Miles Warren’s input, the concept options have been advancing quite rapidly. As soon as we have removed more of the rubble and are able to carry out further investigations of both the ground and the building itself we will be able to plan with more certainty.
“We will then need to look at the viability of the options open to us before settling on an agreed path forward.  Hopefully by the end of February we  will have a more definite idea of what we will be able to do.
“It does looking promising though,” he said.

Diocese to move forward with attempting to save the Cathedral Nave – September 2015

CERA has given its approval under Section 38 to deconstruct the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
This approval means that the Diocese can move forward with its plans to carefully deconstruct badly damaged parts of the church in order to take all reasonable steps to save the nave of the building.
CERA has commissioned the work under section 38 of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011. The deconstruction must be in accordance with a demolition plan put together by the Diocese and its representatives which follows a 12 stage ‘Test/Hold’ process, where each stage must be approved by CERA before work commences.
Bishop Barry Jones says the staging process is a positive way to move forward ensuring the best future for the Cathedral.
“I am delighted to announce today that I can move forward with recovery plans for the Cathedral and all parishes. CERA’s commissioning of works gives the certainty needed to begin the major programme of work to repair, rebuild and strengthen those buildings impacted by the Christchurch earthquakes.”
Detailed engineering assessments focussed on the retention of the nave will commence later this year.
Lance Ryan, chairman of the Cathedral Management Board says that stage one, which is expected to take 12 months, will mostly consist of clearing the areas around the nave so a fuller investigation can be carried out on the ground underneath.
 “Depending on the outcome of those studies, we very much hope that the beautiful nave can be saved.”
Costs to deconstruct the badly damaged surrounds and to restore and rebuild the nave and associated sections are capped at $45 million. The Diocese is seeking to fundraise $15m in support of the plan.
Keith Beal, Property and Development Manager for the Diocese, says this outcome means that in addition to a number of smaller schemes already underway across the Diocese, some of the larger and more complex ones will now commence.
“This is a significant decision and the Diocese is grateful to CERA for the time taken to give careful consideration to its submission and the wider impact on recovery for the Catholic communities and the city of Christchurch.
“Adoption of the 12 stage test/hold process will ensure that the conditions placed upon the Diocese will be comprehensively monitored and complied with.
“On behalf of the Bishop and the Diocesan team I think it important to acknowledge the work of Heritage New Zealand, Christchurch City Council, Opus Consulting, Sir Miles Warren and the army of archaeologists, structural engineers, legal and planning advisors who helped identify all options.
Once the deconstruction has been completed and a full investigation undertaken of the nave and the ground conditions, the Diocese will be in a better position to consult more widely on the future of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

Cathedral Update Oct 2013_1.jpg

October 2013: Cathedral plans – making haste slowly

‘Making haste slowly’ encapsulates the progress being made by the Cathedral Management Board as it looks to make recommendations to the Bishop on the future of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and indeed the entire area of land on which the cathedral sits plus surrounding land.
Lance Ryan, chairman of the Cathedral Management Board, said that the issues affecting decision making are both vast and complex.
“On the surface it may appear that we are becalmed, but there has been a tremendous amount of investigation and study being undertaken behind the scenes.
“What we do know is that building capacity of the damaged cathedral as it now stands is in the range of 20% to 30% of the New Building Standard. This equates to it having over 10 times the risk of collapse compared with a new building during a period of normal seismic activity.
“We also know that if we were to rebuild a full cathedral on the existing location, specific deep foundations would be required to support the four internal dome columns and the heavily loaded bell tower. The remainder of the structure could use the existing shallow foundations, which would need to be strengthened to tolerate up to 90mm of differential settlement in a major earthquake.
“If the cleared land just north was available to us, which included the demolished Convent Chapel and School of Music, deep piles to a depth of 25 metres would probably have to be used with ground improvement up to 12 metres.
“That’s what we know. What we don’t know, and what must be factored into our discussions, is the number of people who are likely to live in this area, and what is to happen with neighbouring properties in relation to education, culture and arts.
“There have been indications that CERA and the Government want 25,000 people living in this area. If that is to be the case, then we have to rebuild with that in mind. But if there is only 2000 people likely to live nearby, then that changes our plans.
“Then we have to work with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust because this is a heritage building, CERA (which presently controls the building) and also the Christchurch City Council.
“The good thing is that we are all heading in the right direction, but it does take time. Once some of these unanswered questions are clarified we will then be in a better position to decide on the type, style and capacity of a what a new cathedral will look like,” he said.
Also in this issue:

  • Diocesan archives coming together
  • New Steinway set to perform
  • Bunbury – is there a lesson here for Christchurch?

click here to read Cathedral Update Oct 2013


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