Church faces de­mo­li­tion

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

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

Fac­ing de­mo­li­tion:

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