A fund-raising trust should be established to support the earthquake strengthening of Nelson’s Christ Church Cathedral, with the objective of the work being done within five years, Nelson MP and Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith said tonight in his annual speech to Nelson Rotary on managing earthquake risk.
“Nelson’s Cathedral, with the demise of Christchurch’s, is the most visited in New Zealand. It is an iconic building sited at Piki Mai and is one of our most important landmarks. We need to learn from Christchurch’s fate and get on with the strengthening work so as to secure its future for our city,” Dr Smith says.
“Nelson’s Christ Church Cathedral, built in 1929, is earthquake prone and currently unaffordable for the diocese to insure. It is not an immediate risk and is safe for continued use. However, in a major quake of the scale of Kaikoura or Christchurch, it would suffer significant damage. It is estimated it will cost $5 million to $8 million to upgrade it to 80 per cent of the new building standard, and this is a community investment we need to get on and do.
“I rate our Cathedral as Nelson’s most important building, a landmark that helps define our heritage. It is a focal point for our community, with the church steps being where we sent servicemen to war, where we mark Christmas each year with carols by candlelight, where we protest and where we mark our victories and significant anniversaries. We need to ensure the Cathedral is there for future generations.
“There may be those who will argue that this is a problem of the Anglican Church and Nelson diocese but I do not share that view. This building has a wider civic role and the Church generously opens it to visitors and all manner of community events. The Suter Art Gallery, School of Music and Theatre Royal are all privately owned by trusts but received both taxpayer and ratepayer support for upgrading.
“The Government has recently created a $10m fund to support strengthening of heritage buildings. I will be advocating for support from this fund but it will also require substantial Church, Nelson City Council and public support.
“My next steps will be working with the Church trustees on establishing a ‘Save Our Cathedral’ fund-raising trust and to facilitate a public meeting next month to help build support for this initiative. Our goal should be to have the strengthening work completed in five years. This is a prudent timetable that is realistic about both the cost and the risk.”