23 Jan 2017

Historical Christchurch building recommissioned

4:05 pm on 23 January 2017

A popular heritage building in Christchurch's Port Hills has re-opened today, nearly six years after the Christchurch earthquake forced its closure.

The Sign of the Kiwi on the Port Hills overlooking Christchurch.

The Sign of the Kiwi on the Port Hills overlooking Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Built in 1917, the Sign of the Kiwi is listed with Heritage New Zealand as a Category One place - meaning it has special or outstanding significance.

The Christchurch City Council-owned building was run as a cafe and shop before it suffered quake damage, which included cracking to the stone masonry walls and a collapsed chimney.

Council heritage rebuild manager Richie Moyle said the repair job, which got underway in March last year, cost $920,000.

Mr Moyle said it was money well spent given how much people in the city valued the building.

"I've got a number of buildings, 60 buildings around Christchurch on the programme, but this is the one where I get the most feedback from the Christchurch people saying it has been sorely missed," he said.

"People have been knocking on this door all the way through this rebuild saying 'Is it open? Is it open?' And I'm really pleased to have it open today."

Janice Thornton had been running the Sign of the Kiwi cafe for about 10 months when she was forced to close up shop.

She said the closure had been devastating but it was great to finally be back.

"I felt really nervous early this morning... because I have put my heart and soul into this and I've waited so long for this to happen, and I never believed it would happen again after that fateful day six years ago."

The Sign of the Kiwi on the Port Hills overlooking Christchurch.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel (centre) opens the renovated Sign of the Kiwi in Christchurch's Port Hills. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

In 1900 politician and local councillor Harry El began planning and setting up a network of scenic reserves along the Port Hills, connected by the specially built Summit Road, along with rest houses for walkers to stop at.

The Sign of the Kiwi was one of the historical rest houses that was a part of his vision.

Another rest house, the Sign of the Takahe is still undergoing repairs but is expected to re-open later this year.

Paula Jameson, a member of the Summit Road Society and the great-granddaughter of Harry El, said the society was excited.

"That the city council has taken it into themselves to get these place refurbished and open again to the public."

The view of Christchurch from the Sign of the Kiwi.

The view of Christchurch from the Sign of the Kiwi. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

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