Stead­fast vigil at church

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

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.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Kauri trea­sure:

Pro­test­ers are con­cerned about the fu­ture of St Stephen’s Pres­by­te­rian Church as they await a de­ci­sion on whether it will close this month.

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