By the 1990s it became clear the 1970 organ could not fulfil its role as a town hall organ. It was under-powered and lacked versatility. The hall had been restored to its Edwardian grandeur in 1997, but not the organ.
The growing dissatisfaction of musicians prompted City Organist Dr John Wells to promote complete restoration. ‘Restore the Splendour’ was the catch cry. With the formation of the Auckland Town Hall Organ Trust in 2004 and the appointment of international consultant Ian Bell of London the goal was in sight.
An international tendering process led to a contract being signed between Auckland City Council and one of Germany’s largest organ-building companies, Orgelbau Klais of Bonn. The city would provide $3 million of the $3.5 million required and the balance would come from public subscription through the Trust’s ‘adopt-a-pipe’ scheme.
With so little of the original to work with, Klais opted to build a new organ incorporating what was salvageable from the 1911 instrument. It would be a third larger than the original and in every way designed as an international instrument of the twenty first century. Uniquely it would have two stops based on Māori instruments – the kōauau (flute) and pūkāea (horn). All through, the spirit of the 1911 instrument would be captured using similar pipe scales and wind pressures to ensure the Town Hall was filled with sound.
The new organ was inaugurated on 21 March 2010. Birmingham City Organist, Thomas Trotter, who performed during the opening celebrations declared, “This organ ranks with the finest town hall organs anywhere in the world”.