Warren Boys and Ian Roebuck, of Ian Roebuck Crane Hire, remove the northen gable cross at Taranaki Cathedral.
Having sat atop Taranaki Cathedral for more than 100 years, it was perhaps understandable that the large stone cross looking out over New Plymouth clung on for as long as possible.
The cross, on the northern gable facing Vivian Street, was removed today as part of the preparatory work for the earthquake strengthening of the historic church.
All the crosses on top of the cathedral will be temporarily removed when work gets under way on the remediation of the building. However, this particular cross had been assessed as a safety concern and was therefore removed promptly.
In the end, the cross proved more difficult to budge than expected.
Having tied and secured it to the crane ready to be lifted clear, Ian Roebuck Crane Hire operator and rigger Warren Boys did his best to prise the cross from the roof of the historic church, using a crowbar to remove the mortar at the base.
However, despite some sideways and back-to-front movement, the base of the cross held firm. A concrete cutter was called for and it was decided to cut through the upright of the cross, directly above the base. Having been sliced through cleanly, the cross, which is estimated to weigh 200-250kg, was finally hoisted into the air and lowered to the ground.
“It was sad it had to be cut, but the base was pivoting and the weight of the cross meant it could have been a danger, so it was best to bring it down now,” The Cathedral Project remediation and design manager Jenny Goddard said.
She said it was pleasing to have the cross safely on the ground and a “huge responsibility” to work on an iconic element of the church that had been in place since that section of the church was built in 1915.
“When you think of the equipment used today to put the likes of these things up or take them down, you do marvel at how they got it up there.”
Mrs Goddard said removing the cross would now allow investigations into how it was constructed and attached to the roof. The findings will influence how the other crosses are removed and help determine how best they should all be reinstated.
She thanked Ian Roebuck Crane Hire, who offered their services for free.
* Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary, which is New Zealand’s oldest stone church, has been closed since February 2016. The earthquake-strengthening and refurbishment of the cathedral is the first part of a three-stage, five-year $15 million project to create a cathedral precinct on the site. This will include the addition of a world-class welcoming atrium, and will incorporate the adjacent wooden vicarage. There will also be on-site parking.