Nelson's Christ Church Cathedral needs millions of dollars worth of seismic strengthening and the public may be asked to help raise the funds for the work.
The cathedral, which overlooks Nelson city, is listed as a key public building and although it meets safety standards, it has an earthquake risk rating that makes it uninsurable.
Civic leaders have said crucial seismic strengthening work could cost up to $8 million to bring it up to 80 percent of the new building standard.
Work building the cathedral stopped during the Great Depression and later during World War II. A simplified plan to finish it with concrete was approved in the late 1950s.
The call went out to the public at the start of this year, that it may be asked to help fund the cathedral earthquake strengthening project. Nelson MP Nick Smith announced the plans for a fund-raising trust, and said Nelson needed to learn from Christchurch.
"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 said.
The cathedral is the seat of the Nelson Anglican Diocese which stretches across the top third of the South Island. The diocese owns close to 70 properties throughout Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough.
The assets are held by a trust and its chair John Fitchett said the trust might consider contributing towards the cathedral strengthening cost, but it was too soon to say.
Mr Fitchett said in a statement anything it gave towards strengthening the cathedral would be at the expense of other church activities, including the cost of sustaining ministries, and maintaining "significant social services work across Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough and the West Coast".
The trust declined to say on the record whether it might consider selling assets to help fund the project.
The cathedral, which stands sentinel over the city from a hilltop above the main street, is ranked by Trip Advisor as among the top 10 things to see in Nelson.
The first church put on the site was a tent in 1842, followed by a wooden building, but an earthquake ruined the spire, and then a fire finished it off. Today's 1929 English gothic cathedral is built of Takaka marble, hauled there by William John (Jack) Small - the Pākehā grandfather of iwi researcher and author, John Mitchell.
"By the time I came along and was living in Nelson with granddad, he was still grumbling about the fact: 'We carted a lot of the rock from the Takaka Hill across to Nelson for the cathedral, and they never paid'.
Māori priest, Archdeacon Andy Joseph said the cathedral's importance to the city was greater than symbolic.
"As a cathedral and as a place of worship, it means everything. In Māori terms, it's a Whare Tipuna - a place of learning - a place of worship, and more importantly a place where people gather," he said.
Dr Smith said he planned to lobby for government funds to help the project.
"The government has recently created a $10 million 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."
Dr Smith's electorate office said a public meeting is planned for later in the year, after the release of an engineer's report.