Councillor Mel Courtney with the damaged column on the Cawthron Steps. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Church Steps damage ‘devastatingly sad’


The cost of fixing Nelson’s historic Church Steps is still not clear after the heritage icon suffered extensive damage when a vehicle allegedly drove down them over the weekend.

Nelson City Council has asked police to review CCTV footage of the area after the damage was discovered on Sunday.

The trail of damage began near the top of the steps, with chunks of the granite stairs gouged out.

Skid marks were then visible in front of the first column that was broken off its base, but not as severely damaged as the next column, which was knocked completely from its base and smashed on the ground.

The area was cordoned off by Nelmac on Monday with repair work beginning immediately.

Council’s chair of sport and recreation committee Tim Skinner says the column that was not as severely damaged had been cemented back into place.

“Council will work with Heritage New Zealand to assess the most appropriate way to repair the other damage as the steps are a protected heritage item. Until we get information on this, the total cost of repairs won’t be known.”

Sub Dean of Nelson’s Christ Church Cathedral Steve Jordan says the Cawthron Steps and the entire Cathedral area are an iconic landmark for Nelson.

“It’s devastatingly sad if someone’s elected to cause criminal damage to such a treasured part of the city.”

Father Steve will be leading the city’s Anzac Day ceremony at Piki Mai on April 25 and expressed his “deep sadness” that the backdrop to the ceremony, which pays attention to the sacrifice of so many brave people, should be “so despoiled by wanton damage”.

However, Nelson City councillor Mel Courtney says council will ensure it is fixed before Anzac Day “even if we have to work through the night”.

Mel was one of the first within council to become aware of the damage after images surfaced online on Sunday.

“They’re a wonderful feature and to have them damaged in that way is totally unacceptable but also what concerns me is that it’s a cost to the ratepayer.”

A police spokesperson says they were first notified of the incident on Monday morning.

The steps were first built in 1858, made simply from wood but they soon fell into disrepair and plans to replace them were finalised in 1911 thanks to Thomas Cawthron who offered to cover the costs.