The Cathedral Project

Some Questions and Answers


A comment from Archbishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki

“The total project as we know includes earthquake strengthening, and site development. Each part is essential to the other, because we must ensure that we not only fix the building, but can meet the costs of its operation going forward. Significant maintenance has been deferred for many years because the church has been unable to meet the cost of operating this building.

The relocation of all activities to the Cathedral site itself, is to enable the site across the road to be redeveloped to provide the income needed to maintain this historic building into the future. This has also become an urgent matter of safety, as moving people across the busy one-way road has become increasingly dangerous, especially for the elderly and children.

This total project is beyond the means of the Taranaki Cathedral community and the Anglican church as a whole. We are facing an extra-ordinary challenge because of the earthquake-strengthening requirements and the necessity to ensure the sustainability of our buildings. The Diocese of Waikato & Taranaki has several vulnerable buildings in Taranaki alone, these other buildings will either have to be closed and demolished, or funded entirely locally.

Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary as a building of national significance must be remediated and future-proofed. With Taranaki Cathedral there is no option, and the responsibility falls on this generation”


What is the problem with the cathedral?

A detailed seismic assessment of Taranaki Cathedral was undertaken in 2015 and found that the building was Earthquake Prone.  In January 2016, due to public safety concerns, the cathedral was closed to the public.  Since then, all church services have been held across the road in the Peace Hall.

How do the engineers propose to strengthen the cathedral?

The main components of the strengthening will be:

The addition of steel members and plywood to the roof (which will require the roof to be removed)
A new concrete beam at the top of the stone walls which the structural elements of the roof will be connected to.
Steel rods inserted into the walls and a grout mixture injected in to the wall cavity around these additional concrete foundations


 Will the strengthening components be visible?

The aim is to minimise the visual impacts and, accordingly, most of the work is above the beautiful timber ceiling, and within or under the stone walls.  Steel brackets connecting the rafters and wall top will be visible and it is likely a horizontal steel beam will be visible on the western gable end on the interior and exterior.  Careful and challenging deconstruction work, and then reconstruction after the new elements are added, is proposed.


Are interior changes planned for the cathedral?

The hiatus caused by the closure of the cathedral has been an ideal time to consider interior enhancements that improve the comfort and flexibility of the space for both worship and community use. 

An extensive consultation exercise has been undertaken with our parish and with other potential user groups. As a result the decision has been taken to remove the existing pews from the cathedral to allow for a type of chair that will allow us to set up different seating arrangements or even total clearance of the space. This simply is not possible with the beautiful but extremely heavy pews. The advantages of being able to set seating out to suit different occasions is fundamental to our aim of greater use of the cathedral space by our community.

More responsive heating and lighting systems will be installed in line with modern expectations. We are also planning and the uppermost level of the sanctuary to be lowered making a larger platform at just 500mm above the main nave level. This will mean less steps and ramp access will be possible to this area – something which is so important with our aging population.

What will happen to the pews?

The existing pews are to be removed from the church in favour of a more flexible form of seating. While most will admit that the pews are not the most comfortable seats they have ever sat in, they are an important record of families that have been involved with the church. Most of the pews have plaques on them indicating who gifted them to the church. We will make contact with families wherever possible and respectfully discuss our plans with them. More details on the pews and the process to remove them are here

Are exterior changes planned for the cathedral?

All exterior changes to this Category 1 Heritage building need to be carefully considered.  The new roof for instance will be welsh slates, matched as closely as possible to the existing slates.  These slates have a minimum 100 year warranty.  


How much will the project cost?

The overall funding requirement is $15 million, of which about $10 million relates directly to the earthquake strengthening of the cathedral.


Who is managing and overseeing the project? 

The Project Governance Board is headed up by John Eagles who is also Chair of the Taranaki Anglican Trust Board, the building owners. Other members of the Board include our Fundraising lead, Cathy Thurston, The Peoples Warden, Julie Otene, Treasurer Barbara Brockie, the Cathedral Dean, Remediation Manager, Jenny Goddard and Reverend Peter Barleyman (representing interests around the mountain).

Key consultants providing input thus far include Holmes Consulting (engineering), Conservation Architect Ian Bowman, and Architects Tennent Brown Ltd.

Is the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki funding the Project?

An initial contribution has been received from the Diocese which recognises its firm support for the Project. However with over 50 parishes in its care many of whom also face the need for earthquake strengthening and lack sufficient financial reserves to undertake the task, there is no ability for the Diocese to fully fund this project.

What role is the Parish and its congregation playing?

The Parish congregation has maintained the cathedral for generations and will continue to do so in addition to meeting its operational responsibilities such as supporting clergy in their day to day positions, admin staffing, programmes like the Community Café and chaplains at workplaces and rest homes.  The congregation is mobilised in support and is making a significant contribution over and above this operational funding to assist with the building project. Additionally, there will be special fundraising events run by the congregation for The Cathedral Project.

What does the Cathedral do for the Community?

Taranaki Cathedral has a mandate to be “as Christ in the community”.  This doesn’t just mean holding church services for a congregation on a Sunday! The cathedral has a substantial community mission and role. This is historically a primary role of cathedrals and since the earliest of time have been serving their cities and provinces as places where we go to celebrate and grieve irrespective of faith, gender or race.  Many of the changes we are making to the interior of the Cathedral will make it more useful to the community for performance and debate.

The weekly Community Cafe supports a range of charitable causes internationally while the Op Shop, called Stop In, raises thousands each year for causes in Taranaki and throughout New Zealand. The Foodbank and counselling services are provided with rent free premises.  Programmes for youth, toddlers and the elderly all run from the cathedral and touch hundreds of people.  See for more information.

Taranaki Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Bishopric, which runs the Bishops Action Foundation, established many years ago.  BAF ( is involved in myriad community projects from affordable housing to social enterprise and programmes for children and young people.   It also carries out research and empowers many community organisations by offering training, governance programmes and online resources such as The Wheelhouse.


Why don’t you write letters asking people to give?

Often letters can be lost or misunderstood and the response rate is very low at an average of less than 5%.  On the other hand, more personal contact produces significantly higher response rates and it seems only courteous that when asking for contributions that we take the time to ask in this way.  We can explain the projects in detail and answer any questions that may arise.

How are the funds managed?

All funds donated to the Campaign will be held strictly in trust in a separate account for the purposes of the Campaign.  Building work will not start on the cathedral strengthening until adequate funds are in place.

Where will the Cathedral get the money it needs to pay the running costs for the redeveloped Cathedral?

The income of the Cathedral comes principally from offerings from the congregation with limited amounts from donations, bequests, grants and property income. In recent years the cathedral has been financially in deficit. Part of the driver for the “single cathedral precinct” is to consolidate the current use and value of assets available. With all cathedral services on the southern side of Vivian Street, the northern sites will be available to support the cathedral’s operations.  Experts are advising us on the best options to provide operating income from development of the property. On-going sustainability is an essential key driver for this project. The Cathedral project aims to make better use of our land and historically significant building to improve financial viability and ensure ongoing sustainability.    





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