Is the Christchurch Town Hall affordable?

July 10th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


The ’s decision to pause its project to restore the Christchurch Town Hall until its financial position is clearer is plainly a wise one. The council had intended to begin seeking expressions of interest from companies who wanted to be involved in the project in May. But that has not gone ahead while the council awaits the outcome of negotiations with is insurers. That makes sense. There would be little point in committing a lot of time and money to the project if in the end there would be no rational way for the council to complete it.

The Council is already struggling with debt.

The Town Hall was insured for $69.1 million, but not all of that is necessarily recoverable. In any case, repairs have been estimated to cost $127.5m, more than it cost, in inflation-adjusted terms, to build.

So the net cost to ratepayers is at least $58 million.But it sounds like they won’t get the full insurance and we all know government construction projects tend to cost more than originally estimated. I would not be surprised if ratepayers end up having to pay over $100 million. That is almost $800 per household. If you asked households if they would rather have the $800 themselves or spend it on the Town Hall, I know what the answer would be.


12 Responses to “Is the Christchurch Town Hall affordable?”

  1. hj (8,596 comments) says:

    If they do rebuild the Town hall i think it could be modeled on one of Dalgety’s wool stores. I never liked the brutalist town hall much.

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  2. hj (8,596 comments) says:

    Do we have anything definitive on public versus private builders. Many state houses were well built and the Ministry of Works did a good job of producing 1000 or so houses for Twizel in the 1960’s?

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  3. RF (2,332 comments) says:

    Pull the bloody thing down. The good folk in Christchurch do not need this wrecked eyesore thats had its day. For Christs sake it’s sitting on the edge of the Avon with a basement full of water. Just waiting for another quake to slip it into the river.

    To save demo costs they should also knock the Cathedral over at the same time.

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  4. KiwiRupes (91 comments) says:

    How on earth does it cost $100 million to build a new town hall? The proposed new tower block in Auckland, which is meant to be NZ tallest building is $350 million – so surely they can get something economical for far less!

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  5. slernz (38 comments) says:

    As a Christchurch ratepayer I am concerned about the Town Hall. I think it should be demolished because the cost to rebuild will be too high. I have no faith in the council’s estimate of $127.5m to rebuild the hall and the cost is likely to be double or quadruple what they claim.

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  6. Nukuleka (1,058 comments) says:

    I’m always amused by the way the term ‘heritage’ is bandied about in terms of buildings’- apparently a reason for retaining the Town Hall is that it a ‘heritage’ building. Like many Cantabrians I was present at the opening of the ‘heritage’ Town Hall 40 years ago. I know when I look in the mirror that I sometimes can’t quite believe the ravages of time, but ‘heritage’ I am not!

    The Town Hall is architecturally ugly and brutalist in style and its auditorium is far too large these days for the city’s orchestral and choral concerts. The adjoining James Hay Theatre has never held any attraction for theatrical or musical performances. It has never been a popular performance venue.

    It should be deconstructed and a more appropriate building constructed away from the banks of the Avon as part of the proposed arts precinct.

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  7. backster (2,509 comments) says:

    Maybe the Mayor could approach her geriatric mates in the Labour party and ask them to extend their policy of paying out on uninsured properties to cover the shortfall on the town hall.

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  8. mavxp (504 comments) says:

    The cost is substantial because the ground beneath the Town Hall is liquefiable, and the building is built on shallow foundations which have punched into the ground as the soil beneath softened and flowed away, and dragged the structure down with it. To be fair the structure was built in the late 60’s early 70’s I think, when liquefaction was known about, but methods to assess it were still being developed. The Christchurch earthquake was also much larger and more damaging than anyone would have reasonably foreseen.

    To improve the ground is possible – but usually requires expensive techniques such as stone columns, or deep soil mixing (mixing cement and existing soil together in columns, which are set out in a grid or some other configuration to restrict ground movement during shaking), both usually done without a building in the way! Some tricky method will be proposed by a consultant, requiring a contractor to take a gamble and hike the price no doubt.

    The simple solution is to demolish it, and remediate the ground into river-side park land, and when funds are sufficient, build a suitable concert venue elsewhere (just use the remaining insurance to buy the land now/ soonish). Take the time to design a really good venue that suits the needs of Christchurch circa 2020-2050. In the mean time we can live without it just fine!

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  9. ross411 (1,748 comments) says:

    What point is a town hall these days? Is that where they hold the council sponsored opera which only the well to do, and the minority who are into that shit, and the other well to do council members (who gift themselves free tickets) attend?

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  10. Liberty (620 comments) says:

    The building is munted. Access is appalling and the design is so 1970s.
    On top of that the council is also financially munted.
    The council has roads and drains to fix before it waste money on the Arts
    and farts.

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  11. MT_Tinman (4,394 comments) says:

    “Is the Christchurch Town Hall affordable?”


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  12. lolitasbrother (1,331 comments) says:

    yes, thats only $150 million for each of the 1. town hall, 2.convention centre, and 3.stadium. 4.repairs to the Council building taking its total cost to well over $200 million since it was built. Thats about 1 billion for grandiosity, thats closer to $7000 per ratepayer [ 150,000 or so of us ] roads and drains anyone?..

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