De­mo­li­tion fight is on

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

THE re­moval of an or­gan from an his­toric in­ner-city church is a ‘‘cyn­i­cal ploy’’ in a cam­paign to have the build­ing bull­dozed, her­itage ac­tivists say.

Those fight­ing to save St David’s Pres­by­te­rian Church, built on Khy­ber Pass Rd in 1927, fear time is run­ning out to save it from de­mo­li­tion be­cause of its need for ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions.

A se­nior mem­ber of St David’s ses­sion has re­signed in protest at the plans to de­mol­ish it to make way for a school.

The church’s or­gan and other his­toric arte­facts are be­ing re­moved while the build­ing’s fate is de­ter­mined.

Min­is­ter Doug Len­drum says the move is to pro­tect the items from dam­age that in­cludes a leak in the roof.

The 87-year-old build­ing re­quires re­pairs to meet new new earth­quake stan­dards but a com­pre­hen­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion is yet to be car­ried out into the ex­tent of the work needed.

Len­drum is in favour of build­ing a school on the site.

He told the Auck­land City Har­bour News in Septem­ber that the church feels it has no other op­tion other than to tear the build­ing down.

But the Friends of

St David’s group is fight­ing to save it. Mem­ber Paul Barag­wanath says re­mov­ing ob­jects of sig­nif­i­cance is the first step to­wards de­mo­li­tion.

‘‘We be­lieve Doug is ef­fec­tively seek­ing to com­pro­mise the his­tor­i­cal value of the church,’’ he says.

‘‘The next step will be to de­clare it a pile of bricks, then de­clare it dan­ger­ous and that it has to be torn down.’’

Len­drum says an

‘‘ini­tial seis­mic re­port’’ car­ried out about a month ago found the build­ing meets 5 to 10 per cent of the cur­rent earth­quake stan­dard for new build­ings. The Build­ing Act 2004 re­quires it to be no less than 34 per cent.

The Friends of St David’s has of­fered to pay for a full en­gi­neer’s re­port for pos­si­ble earth­quake-strength­en­ing and to raise the funds for re­pairs.

Coun­cil­lor Mike Lee says Auck­land Coun­cil’s Her­itage Ad­vi­sory Panel has asked it to me­di­ate with the own­ers to try to pre­serve the build­ing.

For­mer St David’s ses­sion se­nior mem­ber Tony Far­row says he re­signed two weeks ago after com­mu­ni­ca­tions broke down be­tween him­self and Len­drum.

‘‘I said openly: ‘ I can­not be in two camps – I don’t be­lieve in what you’re try­ing to do’.

‘‘The bat­tle is on, you could say, be­tween two groups as to whether they will or will not bull­doze the church, de­spite the fact that you have one group say­ing we will find the money and re­build it.’’

Far­row and his wife Heather mar­ried at the church in 1961. He says the un­cer­tainty over the build­ing’s fu­ture is a ‘‘shat­ter­ing sit­u­a­tion’’.

‘‘All th­ese peo­ple are start­ing to get in­volved in the bat­tle, God knows if we’ll get there in time but I cer- tainly hope so.’’ Len­drum says no decision has been made about its long-term fu­ture. The mez­za­nine floor and ramp en­trance to the church have been closed for safety rea­sons, he says.

‘‘We un­der­stand that there are peo­ple who feel up­set that the build­ing is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. We’re sad too. It’s a build­ing of sig­nif­i­cance to our mem­bers and we are very aware of the part it has played in this com­mu­nity for gen­er­a­tions.’’

Photo: JESS LEE

Long his­tory: Heather and Tony Far­row, who mar­ried at St David’s Pres­by­te­rian Church in 1961, have joined the fight to save the church.

Fac­ing de­mo­li­tion: St David’s Pres­by­te­rian Church, built on Khy­ber Pass Rd in 1927, may be torn down to make way for a new school.

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