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Chess grand master plans to buy church

MARNIE HALLAHAN
Last updated 10:25 07/12/2012
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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Calls of Amen will be replaced by checkmate as a chess Grand Master plans to buy Devonport's St Paul's Presbyterian Church.

New Zealander Murray Chandler, a well known international chess Grand Master, wants to create a NZ National Chess Centre on the site which had been dogged with controversy.

The church and adjoining historic graveyard went up for sale last year after dwindling numbers saw the congregation close its doors.

Devonport residents and descendants of those buried in the graveyard campaigned against the sale as they were concerned that the heritage values of the site wouldn't be upheld and that visiting rights would be cut off.

Their campaigning saw the church taken off the market and an extensive investigation into the location of unmarked graves was launched as well as seismic strength testing for the church.

The investigation found three possible unmarked graves on 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 purchaser be approved by the Minister of Health.

Mr Chandler lives in Devonport and Northern Presbytery representative Stewart Milne says he appreciates the history of the church and the significance of the closed 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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