Victoria Square is ready to resume its reign as one of Christchurch’s premier public places.
The earthquakes left the picturesque square in a poor condition but after a 13-month restoration project it is back to its former glory.
Today it was officially re-opened by Acting Mayor Andrew Turner.
During the re-opening event the colourful Bowker Fountain – Australasia’s first illuminated electric fountain – was switched on by Jane Stace, a descendent of Henry Bowker, who provided the funding for the fountain back in 1931.
“Victoria Square was a much-loved public space before the earthquakes and I’m delighted to have the honour today of re-opening it. It is a beautiful asset for the city and the people of Christchurch,’’ says Cr Turner.
The restoration of Victoria Square has been led by Crown company Ōtākaro Limited, in collaboration with Christchurch City Council and Matapopore on behalf of Ngāi Tūāhuriri/Ngāi Tahu.
Some 170,000 pavers in Victoria Square have been replaced and the underground services and lighting upgraded to improve its safety and accessibility.
A new punt stop has also been built opposite the Town Hall.
Ōtākaro Chief Executive Albert Brantley says it is rare to be part of a construction job where the aim is not to change much at all.
“The layout of Victoria Square’s paved and grassed areas is just as people will remember it. Heritage monuments like the Queen Victoria and Captain Cook statues and the floral clock remain in their prominent locations.
“This was done in response to considerable public feedback on the future of Victoria Square before the work started,’’ Mr Brantley says.
“Victoria Square will now tie in seamlessly with the river promenade that’s under construction and put the best of Christchurch on show for those visiting the neighbouring Convention Centre."
Victoria Square is a place of special significance for Ngāi Tūāhuriri.
In pre-European times it was recorded as the site of Puari, a Waitaha pā which stretched along the banks of the Avon/Ōtākaro river, close to Victoria Square – and this stretch of river has always been an important mahinga kai site for Ngāi Tahu.
“The concrete and brass Kanakana table is a beautiful riverside addition to Victoria Square. It’s a place where large groups can gather to share a meal and it acknowledges the rich history of the area as a traditional food gathering place,” says Mr Brantley.
The restoration of Victoria Square and the repair and upgrading of the adjoining sections of Colombo Street and Armagh Street has cost around $12.7m.
The road works will be finished next month.