Saturday, 14 July 2018

Sacred Heart Cathedral to close doors due to earthquake damage

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Thorndon closed its doors today, in the interest of safety for parishioners and the public, following a structural engineer’s report confirming it presents a significant risk to occupants in the event of an earthquake.

Following a verbal report from structural and civil engineers, Dunning and Thornton, the Parish Committee has been working through a process of due diligence regarding the structural condition of the Cathedral. 

Yesterday, it received a peer review of the detailed seismic assessment (DSA) that recently advised that the Cathedral was ‘earthquake prone’ under the Building Act 2004. Both reports have confirmed that the Cathedral currently presents a significant risk to occupants in the event of an earthquake.

The Cathedral, designed by architect Francis Petre, was opened in 1901. In contrast to most other Wellington churches, it’s classical rather than Gothic styling has made it a prominent building on the Thorndon landscape. The Cathedral is one of only a few fine examples of Petre’s work still standing today.

In the 1980s the Cathedral was strengthened and the complex enlarged to include the foyer, Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and Connolly Hall. This work was done well and the building elements that were strengthened remained rated well above the 33% minimum of NBS. 

However, at roof level, ceiling diaphragms are insufficient to carry loads under the current building codes. This has resulted in their lower earthquake rating being applied to the building.

The closure will come as a shock not only to the parishioners, but also the wider community. Many have found the Cathedral a place of spiritual enrichment, a place of beauty, and a place to take time out from busy city life. Its fine acoustics and organ have also provided a home to musicians and community groups who have used it for concerts and recordings.

While the detailed planning for remediation work has not started yet, it is likely that the building will be closed for several years and the work will cost several million.

Raising the funds for this essential work is now the priority. The Cathedral Parish will be enlisting the help of the people of Wellington and others to preserve this Wellington landmark.

While the Cathedral is closed, weekday masses will take place at Sacred Heart Cathedral school in the short term and Sunday masses will be celebrated at St Mary’s College Hall, Guildford Terrace. Further information can be found at


13 July 2018

Amanda Gregan
Communications Advisor - NZ Catholic Bishops
Te Huinga o ngā Pīhopa Katorika o Aotearoa
Ph: 04 496 1725
Fax: 04 496 1770
Mobile: 021 611 052
T: @catholicnz

For further information please contact the Parish Office 04 496 1700 

  • November 2016 following the Kaikoura earthquake a rapid assessment by Dunning Thornton confirmed that no significant damage was observed.
  • 2017 Dunning Thornton commissioned by the Parish to undertake DSA (Detailed Seismic Assessment) in two stages. Stage 1 completed September 2017 confirmed building rating to be around 40% of NBS and identified areas for further investigation as part of Stage 2.
  • 8 May 2018 Stage 2 Interim report identified potential earthquake-prone risk. Sacred Heart Cathedral School advised and stopped using Cathedral complex and Connolly Hall due to possible fall.
  • 25 May DSA Results Summary received. Confirming that due to deficiencies in detailing of ceiling diaphragms the Cathedral rating was less than 33% of NBS. (confirming earthquake-prone rating). Peer review of the Dunning Thornton work commissioned.
  • 3 July 2018 Dunning Thornton full report received, and earthquake-prone notification displayed.
  • 11 July 2018 peer review received confirming earthquake status as less than 15% of NBS.
  • 12 July 2018 Cathedral Finance committee met and recommended immediate closure until
    remedial work to bring the structure up to at least 33% of NBS can be undertaken.
  • 13 July 2018 Cathedral complex closed. 

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