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Church graves may be dug up

MARNIE HALLAHAN
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2013
St Paul's Presbyterian Devonport
PETER ELEY/ Fairfax NZ

COULD BE BOWLED: Devonport's St Paul's Presbyterian church and neighbouring graveyard, where graves may be dug up to make room for a chess centre.

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At least five historic graves may need to be dug up to pave the way for a national chess centre in Auckland.

The 100-year-old St Paul's Presbyterian Church in Devonport was put on the market after congregation numbers began to dwindle in 2011.

Chess grandmaster Murray Chandler hopes to buy the church to create a national chess centre but is hampered by controversy over old graves surrounding the site.

The vendor, Northern Presbytery, hopes to subdivide the property to legally separate the church and and an adjacent hall from the adjoining cemetery.

But its plans have hit a snag.

A new geomagnetic survey of the area has identified what may be four more unmarked grave pits on or close to the church building and human bones are visible at one location.

The graves will have to be pinpointed exactly and the human remains disinterred and re-interred within the graveyard before any subdivision goes ahead.

An initial ground radar investigation of the area may have also turned up another unmarked grave on the edge of the community hall.

Presbytery lawyer Stewart Milne said the cemetery would be gifted to the Auckland Council if the subdivision does eventually proceed.

Latest developments will be discussed during a public meeting at St Paul's on April 7.

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- Auckland Now

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