Christchurch Cathedral is to undergo partial demolition, but Anglican Church officials are hopeful that parts of it can be saved in some form.
The cathedral was extensively damaged in the earthquake on 22 February and sustained further damage in a magnitude 6.1 aftershock in June.
Bishop Victoria Matthews says further controlled demolition and temporary measures to make the building safe will allow artefacts and heritage items to be removed and stored until decisions are made about a future cathedral.
Among the items in the church are the organ, the pulpit and the flag Sir Edmund Hillary flew when he opened Scott Base in 1957.
Bishop Matthews says the main priority is to make the building safe and this will involve controlled demolition.
She says it is not known how much demolition will be carried out until the work is actually under way. Some part of the structure may be able to be retained but it will not be rebuilt to look exactly as it did before.
Overall, the work is expected to cost $4 million.
The Anglican Church says it is critically important that the right decision is made about where the cathedral is located both in the short and long term.
It is investigating all options for an interim ministry, including a proposal for a cardboard cathedral.
It says its preference is to rebuild on the same site, but that will be determined by a geotechnical report.