Church faces demolition
THE RACE is on to save an historic inner-city church from demolition.
St David’s Presbyterian Church, built on Khyber Pass Rd in 1927, may be torn down to make way for a school after failing to meet new earthquake standards and decades of dwindling congregations.
A new group called Friends of St David’s is fighting to save the building and is registering a charitable trust to support its restoration.
But St David’s minister Reverend Doug Lendrum says the church feels it has no other option other than to tear the 87-year-old structure down.
He says the church’s operational costs are around $350,000 a year – unsustainable given the mounting maintenance costs and the regular congregation of only 40 people.
An initial assessment of the building found it meets 28 per cent of the current earthquake standard for new buildings. The Building Act 2004 requires it to be no less than 34 per cent. How much it would cost to get the building up to standard is not yet known. Lendrum revealed plans to build a coeducational primary school on the site in 2009.
St Marys Bay resident Helen Schnabel says the church is special to her family.
‘‘It was a huge part of my parents’ life and my childhood and it would be so sad for it to get ripped apart like that. It holds so many memories for my family and so many others.’’
If plans for the school stall, the church will have no choice but to sell up and move on, Lendrum says.
‘‘We haven’t set out as a congregation with our priority on demolition, we have set out with our vision on the future,’’ he says.
‘‘We’ve always known the condition of this building and the options for retaining it were outside our vision because we know the cost involved.’’
But Friends of St David’s founder Paul Baragwanath, whose grandfather and great-great-grandfather were both ministers there, says there is a way to save it with community support.
‘‘I understand the congregation does not want to compromise the future for the sake of the past,’’ he says.
‘‘But my strong belief is that the past will sustain and nourish the school and the entire community.’’
Baragwanath says the restored church could become the heart and soul of the school and could bring in revenue if used for events.
Lendrum says ultimately he would be happy for the building to stay and be incorporated into the new development.
‘‘We’ve just convinced that first.’’
The church is awaiting permission from the Presbyterian Church Property Trustees, the building’s got to be it’s possible legal owners, before it can apply for resource consent to demolish it and build the school.
Lendrum says he wants the congregation to have the final say on whether the church stays or goes.
‘‘That’s our next step – not because we’re actually going to bowl it over in five minutes but it gives us the options to do something creative with or without this building and that’s the freedom I’m after,’’ he says.
Heritage campaigner Allan Matson hopes demo- lition won’t be advanced before the community and owner explore options to protect and conserve the building.
‘‘There are great examples of new architecture beautifully and functionally integrated with existing heritage – sadly not many in Auckland – but my hope is that Auckland Council will consider all relevant information as proposals develop.’’
Divided opinions: Friends of St David’s founder Paul Baragwanath, left, and St David’s minister Reverend Doug Lendrum.
St David’s Presbyterian Church, built on Khyber Pass Rd in 1927, may be torn down to make way for a new school.
Community support: Helen Schnabel, pictured with her son Marco, wants to see St David’s preserved for future generations