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The Government’s multi-million dollar commitment to the development of Taranaki Cathedral has given the project team confidence work can be under way by May next year.
“This funding gives us the ability to really look ahead with surety and set dates for when work can begin,” The Cathedral Project remediation and design manager Jenny Goddard said.
“We can now accelerate our planning with engineering specialists and consultants, and begin preparing resource consents to push ahead with the work.
“By May 2019 we hope to have started on our priority, which is the remediation of the Cathedral. This work is expected to take up to 20 months to complete, so we aim to have the church open again for the public in late 2020,” she said.
Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary, which is New Zealand’s oldest stone church, has been closed for earthquake strengthening since February 2016.
The remediation work is part of a $15 million development project to create a Cathedral precinct on the site.
Earlier this month, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund would invest up to $5 million in the project.
As well as earthquake-strengthening and upgrades to the Cathedral to make it a more flexible place for worship, arts, music, drama and other events, there are also plans to enhance the entire site, making the Cathedral and grounds a must-see Taranaki tourist destination.
This includes the addition of a world-class welcoming atrium, which as well as being a space for community events, will be a place where the church’s heritage and story from 1846 is acknowledged and told. It will have a focus on peace and reconciliation, will model the shape of a bicultural partnership going forward, and honour the memory of former governor-general and first Māori archbishop of the Anglican church Sir Paul Reeves. This educational and interpretative experience will include displays, audio visual guides and multi-media resources.
The project concept also incorporates the adjacent wooden vicarage, built in 1899, and includes on-site carparking.
“While we are working towards beginning work on the strengthening of the Cathedral, we are still in the concept stage for these other aspects of the project and are still determining where they will go on the site and how they will look,” Mrs Goddard said.
The Cathedral Project fundraising lead Cathy Thurston said while the Government’s much-appreciated commitment meant the Cathedral strengthening and upgrade work could now be planned, there was still a lot of money needed to make the full project a reality. The Taranaki Cathedral parish aims to raise at least $2 million itself.
“We still need more funding support. It’s a large project at $15 million so we are still applying to different funding sources to get the support we need,” she said.
“We are also urging the community to get behind the project and pledge funds. It’s a unique concept in New Zealand and will be a fantastic addition to Taranaki’s reputation as a tourist destination, sitting alongside the Len Lye Centre, Pukekura Park, Puke Ariki and the Coastal Walkway.
“There is growing worldwide interest in cultural tourism, and providing a true cultural visitor experience, and this truly meets those demands,” Ms Thurston said.
“When we travel overseas we like to know the history of places we are visiting, and people visiting Taranaki are no different. The Taranaki Cathedral, being the oldest stone church in the country, is something that adds a sense of pride to our community and region, and can be a starting place for people to find out information about our unique history,” she said.
Once completed, it is estimated Taranaki Cathedral will annually draw more than 64,000 domestic visitors, more than 10,500 international visitors and contribute about $7.3 million to the regional economy.
A concept drawing of Taranaki Cathedral hosting a music recital.