8 Jun 2015

Christchurch town hall restoration back on cards

12:12 pm on 8 June 2015

Work to repair Christchurch's earthquake-damaged Town Hall could begin this month as a new report confirms the project can be delivered within budget.

In 2013, the city council voted unanimously to fully restore the heritage-listed facility, at a cost of about $127.5 million.

Exterior damage to the Christchurch town hall from the earthquakes.

Exterior damage to the Christchurch town hall from the earthquakes. Photo: RNZ

However, the project was put on hold as the council reviewed its financial shortfall, but a business case by accounting firm Deloitte has now backed the restoration of the venue.

Most parts of the complex would be repaired, while the Boaters and the Cambridge rooms would be rebuilt.

The James Hay Theatre, which has been widely criticised by the arts community, would be redeveloped as a mid-size auditorium.

Council staff said the report provided the "desired confidence and cost certainty that the project can be delivered within the allocated budget".

City councillors will be asked to confirm the restoration project at a full meeting on Thursday and work could begin as soon as this month.

Quake damage inside the Christchurch Town Hall.

Quake damage inside the Christchurch Town Hall. Photo: RNZ

The project is expected to be completed in mid-2018.

The council's decision to restore the venue was criticised by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee.

Mr Brownlee believed repairing the Town Hall would divert funding from the proposed new performing arts precinct in the central city.

The Town Hall has polarised opinion. Some members of the performing arts community said it was outdated and not fit for purpose, while others wished to see the building retained.

The council was due to seek expressions of interest from construction companies wanting to carry out the repairs, but this was put on hold last year because of the uncertainty surrounding funding.

At the time, council finance committee chairman, Raf Manji, said the council needed to clarify its insurance position before proceeding.

A staff report to councillors said the council had an almost $70 million insurance claim on the Town Hall.

If the council chose not to repair the venue, the maximum it would be entitled to would be $32.4 million.

The Town Hall foyer before the quake.

The Town Hall foyer before the quake. Photo: Wikicommons