Chess champ plans to buy church

MARNIE HALLAHAN
Last updated 10:25 07/12/2012
St Paul's Presbyterian Church
BEN WATSON/Fairfax NZ

HEAVENLY HOME: St Paul's Presbyterian Church overlooks the neighbouring graveyard.

Murray Chandler
Andrew Gorrie/DOMINION POST
RESURRECTION: Murray Chandler hopes to create a national chess centre on the St Paul's Church site.

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An international chess champion wants to buy a North Shore church dogged with controversy and turn it into a national chess centre.

Chess grand master Murray Chandler plans to buy Devonport's St Paul's Presbyterian Church, which went up for sale last year after the congregation dwindled and it closed its doors.

Devonport residents and descendants of those buried in the graveyard campaigned against the sale, saying heritage values wouldn't be upheld and visiting rights would be cut off.

The church took it off the market and an extensive investigation into the location of unmarked graves was launched as well as seismic strength testing for the church.

Three possible unmarked graves were found at the site, including one on the edge of the community hall.

With this knowledge the vendors, Northern Presbytery, put the site back on the market earlier this year but with a preference that it be used as a community venue and under the condition that the buyer be approved by the Minister of Health.

Chandler lives in Devonport and Northern Presbytery representative Stewart Milne said he appreciated the history of the church and the significance of the cemetery.

He will face an almost $300,000 bill to bring the 1916 church up to today's seismic standards.

An application has been lodged for the Minister of Health's approval and if it is granted the sale will proceed.

Earlier this year another North Shore church, the Castor Bay Presbyterian Church, was sold because of dwindling congregation numbers.

It was bought by the Auckland branch of a Buddhist religious education society and will remain a place of worship.

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