Bishop asks for help on visitors' centre plan
Nelson's Christ Church Cathedral has fresh impetus to build a visitor centre now it is the country's most visited cathedral, and it wants council support in the event the site at Pikimai is excavated.
Bishop Richard Ellena has asked the city council through its long term plan process for help with the project that would boost the attraction of the "mother church" of the Anglican diocese which stretches across Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast.
The Church first announced plans for a visitors' centre in September 2008.
The plan was to build a place next to the cathedral that would meet the needs of tourists and would also provide a space outside the main building for the community to use.
Bishop Ellena told city councillors recently that with the sad demise of Christ Church Cathedral, Nelson Cathedral was now the country's most visited.
More than 10,000 people are estimated to visit Nelson Cathedral each year, judging by numbers who fill in the visitor guide book.
Bishop Ellena said because the cathedral is on council land he would like it to consider becoming a partner in the project to create the visitor centre.
He said the diocese would raise funds to build the centre, but it would like the council to help with the cost of site excavation of the grounds that were once a Maori pa and the area on which the New Zealand Company first set up camp.
The diocese owns millions of dollars worth of property, and in recent years has sold several properties in Nelson, Motueka and Christchurch.
Bishop Ellena said iwi had expressed support of the plan in principle. He said in response to a question from councillor Paul Matheson that cathedral parishioners also supported the idea.
Councillor Rachel Reese asked what sort of money might be required, and whether it was something the diocese could cover.
Bishop Ellena said the diocese did not have disposable income to cover site excavation and monitoring which would be in the category of "six figures" but he declined to "put a number on the first figure" at Ms Reese's request.
The English Gothic cathedral which dominates the Nelson cityscape is the successor to an 1880s structure that was damaged by earthquakes and destroyed by fire.
It was highlighted last year as posing a possible earthquake risk and a "hefty construction budget" would have to be set aside if it was found to be vulnerable, Bishop Ellena said early last year.
Council assistance for earthquake-proofing of the cathedral had not been considered at this stage, Bishop Ellena said.
He said yesterday an initial assessment had triggered the need for a more in-depth engineering investigation of the cathedral's structural strength, but they were confident it would be within guidelines.
An engineering assessment was scheduled for later in the year which was the earliest an engineer was available, Bishop Ellena said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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