Christchurch’s new Catholic Cathedral in heart of the city


The Catholic bishop of Christchurch, Paul Martin, says the diocese will build a new cathedral in the centre of the city adjacent to Victoria Square.

The new cathedral will form part of a $500m “North of the Square” development. The development site is bordered by Armagh Street, Colombo Street, Cambridge Terrace and Manchester Street.

It will be  “community and commercial collaboration” between the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch, Crown regeneration company Ōtākaro Limited and big-city developers the Carter Group.

The development will include:

  • Up to four hotels being built between Cathedral Square and the Te Pae convention centre
  • A new Catholic cathedral on land bordered by Colombo, Armagh and Manchester streets
  • A school
  • Church accommodation
  • Church offices
  • A 600-space parking building.

Martin says he is keen for the church to be at the heart of the city, in a precinct that will be both handy for the congregation, school groups and the public, with room for up to 1000 people.

The precinct will also be open to the public to walk through, providing a pedestrian link from New Regent St to the Avon River.

The cost estimates for the church’s share of the development, including land and buildings, are:

  • $85 million for the Cathedral
  • $11 million for the relocated St Mary’s primary school
  • $30 million for the diocesan share of a joint-venture with Carter to build a 600-space parking building with attached offices for youth ministry and social services staff and accommodation for the bishop and priests.

Fundraising will be undertaken. $45m has already been set aside for a cathedral from the earthquake fund.

Further funding will come from selling property no longer required after a recently-announced reorganisation of parishes.

Martin says sales could include the existing cathedral site, as well as St Mary’s church in Manchester St, which would also eventually close.

The plan has taken over a year to put together behind the scenes, involving several landowners as well as the Church and Crown.

It solves several issues for the city at once:

  • How to build several hotels quickly to service Te Pae and minimise disruption to its convention business
  • How to best use a prime riverside site when the central city’s retail and office hubs have shifted elsewhere
  • Where to rebuild the wrecked cathedral and associated facilities
  • How to provide parking handy to Te Pae and the performing arts precinct.

Ōtākaro chief executive John Bridgman described the development as exciting and an “inter-generational change for Christchurch”, which would encourage further investment in that part of the central city.

Martin’s decision to demolish the existing cathedral continues to draw criticism from heritage advocates. Additionally, the closure of parish churches and upcoming land sales has upset some parishioners.

An editorial in The Press on Monday agrees “the loss of the magnificent Barbadoes St basilica will be mourned” but adds ” its remoteness from city life, will not.”


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