A decision on whether to partially demolish Christchurch's cathedral - possibly as low as the window sills - could be made as early as August.
The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court ruling that the Church Property Trustees are entitled to demolish the building if it constructs a new cathedral on the same site.
The ruling released on Friday is the latest legal chapter in the ongoing challenge by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust to stop the Grade 1 heritage-listed Anglican church from being demolished.
The ChristChurch Cathedral in the central city was severely damaged in a series of earthquakes between September 2010 and December 2011.
In March last year, the Church Property Trustees - the body which holds the cathedral on trust - resolved to tear it down to a safe level. The High Court agreed with that decision, but the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust appealed.
The Court of Appeal has now dismissed all the arguments made by the trust, including that it was bound to preserve the cathedral as it was erected from the funds donated by the public.
The Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, said on Friday that the trustees would now look at options for repairing the existing cathedral or rebuilding a new one, but says the immediate priority is retrieving precious artefacts from inside.
Bishop Matthews said this could involve partially demolishing the cathedral down to the level of the window sills and trustees would meet in August to decide the building's fate.
Jim Anderton, the spokesperson for the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, said they haven't decided yet if they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but said the latest ruling is disappointing.