Steadfast vigil at church
HERITAGE advocates and Ponsonby residents plan to continue protesting outside St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church this month as the congregation awaits a decision on the church’s future.
Late last year Ponsonby parishioners learned the church is likely to close because of dwindling numbers and expensive earthquake-strengthening bills ( Auckland City Harbour News December 26).
Paying to safeguard the building would cost in excess of $500,000, something the parish cannot feasibly afford with just 30 to 40 regular members.
Protesters are concerned the building could be sold and redeveloped without consideration for its historic value.
A Northern church spokesman says a decision on St Stephen’s future is hoped to be reached by the end of this month.
Herne Bay resident Wayne MacDonald says he intends to keep vigil outside the church every Tuesday and Thursday for the rest of the month to show support for the 134-year-old landmark.
‘‘Hopefully we will generate some response . . . along with prayer there’s action,’’ he says.
Mr MacDonald says moving the building to make way for new developments such as high-rise apartments would be a tragedy.
But an Auckland Council spokeswoman says any new owner would not be able to demolish the scheduled, category B historic building as a matter of right.
‘‘It is protected and therefore not vulnerable to sudden, random acts of demolition.’’
Demolition of category B buildings is discretionary, not prohibited.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown says if the building was to be sold the council would work with the church in its transition to a new owner to protect its heritage values.
‘‘It’s a beautiful old structure,’’ Mr Brown says. ‘‘Whether it is developers, a charity or corporates, we would urge new owners of the buildings to utilise and preserve them.’’
Mr Brown says old churches and cathedrals around the world have been successfully adapted to other uses, such as schools.
Grey Lynn residents Tigi Ness and Lyn McDonald Ness would like to see the building preserved and put to good use if it is sold.
‘‘It’s such a beautiful church – it’s just a shame that these places are getting sold off,’’ she Ness says.
CBD Residents’ Advisory Group member Audrey van Ryn says many groups use the building.
‘‘It would be a shame for it to be relocated to make way for something else. Other churches around town have become successful in their own right. It’s part of the area.’’
Protesters are concerned about the future of St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church as they await a decision on whether it will close this month.