No Christchurch Town Hall shows until 2019 as construction 'challenges' push out completion date

The Christchurch Town Hall restoration has been hit by delays.
IAIN MCGREGOR/STUFF

The Christchurch Town Hall restoration has been hit by delays.

Construction delays mean the Christchurch Town Hall is unlikely to hold events until 2019.

The city council has confirmed completion of the project will be delayed and part of the building will not be finished until 2019. It was once hoped the Town Hall would reopen in June 2018.

City councillors met to discuss the restoration project behind closed doors last Thursday. 

Vbase chief executive Darren Burden says there is "no point" in clients approaching the organisation about 2018 Town ...
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Vbase chief executive Darren Burden says there is "no point" in clients approaching the organisation about 2018 Town Hall events because it does not have confidence the venue will be finished.

On Monday, major facilities capital delivery manager Alistair Pearson said the James Hay Theatre had "more challenges than initially thought".

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"It is anticipated that construction will be completed in quarter three, 2018," he said.

The James Hay Theatre has "more challenges than initially thought" and will be completed in quarter three, 2018. Another ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

The James Hay Theatre has "more challenges than initially thought" and will be completed in quarter three, 2018. Another section will not open until 2019.

"We have also reached an 'in principle' decision with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO), which will involve the Cambridge Room being rebuilt as a purpose-built facility for the CSO.

"This is an entirely separate project within the main project and would not be ready until quarter two, 2019."

He said the delays would not impact the project budget, which crept up from $127.5 million to $133.1m to account for inflation since the project was first approved in 2015.

Christchurch city councillor Jamie Gough says the construction challenges reflect his early concerns about the project.
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

Christchurch city councillor Jamie Gough says the construction challenges reflect his early concerns about the project.

Construction "challenges" included bringing the fly tower up to the new building code and the design of the hall's rear wall foundation.

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Vbase chief executive Darren Burden said the delays would impact the organisation's reopening plan.

It would talk to clients with inquiries about holding events from early-2019.

"It's probably not much point talking to us about booking the Town Hall in 2018 right now, because we don't have a high level of confidence that the project will be completed by then," Burden said.

Vbase would need a month after construction was completed to mobilise staff to set up the venue.

"We are anticipating that probably by about the end of this year, if not probably very early-2018, that's when we will be able to come out with a reasonably clear opening programme.

"One of the key issues here is we still have quite some time to go in the construction programme, which means that there is still a level of risk when you are refurbishing an existing building like this, which is reasonably complicated.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on the project team [or] to be saying to them 'give us a date' . . . and then something goes wrong.

"If we've committed to events and things like that, that makes everyone look bad," Burden said.

Jamie Gough was the only city councillor to vote against restoration when it was approved in 2015.

At the time, Gough said given his past experience in the construction industry, he was worried the costs would escalate, especially relating to asbestos removal and ground works.

On Monday, he said the current challenges "quite literally" reflected his previous apprehensions.

"My view was a restoration of this magnitude was inevitably going to have a whole host of challenges and generally challenges don't result in things coming in on time or on budget.

"When you're dealing with ratepayer money I think that needs to be top of mind, so right now the exact challenges that I highlighted those years ago are unfortunately starting to have a negative impact on the timeline, which is disappointing to see," he said.

Burden said Vbase was updated monthly on the project's progress.

"Sometimes the programme is a little bit further behind and sometimes it catches up," he said.

Repair work started in June 2015 and was originally expected to take about three years.

Gough said he took "no pleasure" from seeing challenges arise.

"I'm not a councillor that wants to shout from the rooftops 'I told you so', because I fundamentally see my role as trying to do everything I can to ensure that the project goes as smoothly as possible."

 - Stuff

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