Christchurch Art Gallery reopening may be delayed

As sections of Christchurch's Art Gallery are repaired, more extensive damage continues to be discovered.
Dean Kozanic

As sections of Christchurch's Art Gallery are repaired, more extensive damage continues to be discovered.

The planned end-of-year reopening of the Christchurch Art Gallery may have to be delayed, to the surprise of its director.

The Christchurch City Council was planning to have the gallery open to the public by Christmas but a briefing report prepared for councillors by the facilities rebuild team now says it could be early next year before the building is ready to reopen its doors.

Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper is not impressed with the latest delay to the gallery's re-opening.

Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper is not impressed with the latest delay to the gallery's re-opening.

Director Jenny Harper only learned about the potential delay from staff, who had noticed a Facebook posting over the weekend from Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck that mentioned the gallery would not be opening until the new year.

"I am flummoxed," Harper said. "You could knock me down with a feather."

She had been aware of budget issues with the project but believed completion of the repair work was on track. 

"I knew that work on the glass facade was weather dependent but we've had a good winter and I understood everything was going to plan."

Harper was fighting to keep the opening on schedule. 

She met with the project director on Monday afternoon and had been "rallying all in sight", including the contractors. Christchurch needed its art gallery back by Christmas, Harper said.

She accepted the car park and the cafe might not be available for use immediately but was determined to get "art of the walls and the doors open".

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"I and my team are not giving up."

Harper had staff scheduled to begin installing art works in the gallery from September and gallery staff were "very much anticipating a pre-Christmas opening".

They have been working on a "three months summer of arts" programme to mark the re-opening.

When asked how the delay would affect that programme, Harper said: "I really don't know how to answer that because I have no idea what the now proposed opening date might be."

The council has budgeted nearly $57 million for repairing and strengthening the art gallery, which has been re-levelled and retrofitted with base isolation.

As sections of the building have been repaired, contractors have discovered more extensive damage, which has put pressure on the budget and the project's completion date.

A report to be considered by councillors on Thursday said the gallery was expected to open in the first three months of 2016.

Council project director Thomas Jones said the contract works were tracking in line with an unchanged contract completion date of December 11 but the timeframe for completion was tight and the contract might need to be extended by a few days.

Repair works were on budget and the delays had not had any financial impact. The scope of the project might be extended to cover backlog maintenance work and some system upgrades, Jones said.

The Christchurch Art Gallery has been closed to the public since the February 2011 earthquake when it was turned into make-shift headquarters for civil defence operations in the city.

 - Stuff

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