Huge expense to save Petone Methodist church

Last updated 10:39 11/12/2012
Under a cloud: The future of the Petone Methodist church in Nelson St is uncertain. It was built in 1883, and stands about 50 metres from the central Jackson St shopping area.

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The congregation of one of the city's oldest churches has had to find a new home after it was labelled a danger.

The wooden Methodist church at 42 Nelson St was built in 1883 and is believed to be the oldest surviving church in Petone.

The Hutt News understands the church was sealed up five months ago, days after a structural engineers' assessment of the building found it was only 12 per cent compliant with current earthquake standards.

The building was home to the Petone Wesley Multicultural Church, a member of the Hutt City Uniting Congregations union of seven Lower Hutt churches. The property and church building are owned by the Methodist Church of New Zealand.

Fellow HCUC church convenor Bob Hopkirk says after the engineers' assessment of the building the Multicultural Church moved in with his congregation, St Mark's, in Woburn Rd.

"The two congregations are using the one place, so we have our Sunday morning English language service combined, but also separate services in Tongan, and Samoan.

Mr Hopkirk says the future of the Petone Methodist church building is uncertain, as both the Multicultural Church and Methodist Church of New Zealand consider their options.

"It's far too expensive to be repaired, for the congregation to get it up to the standard that it has to be.

"And it's not ideal paying rates and insurance for a building that's not being used, but selling a historic place is a bit of a problem because there's limitations in what the buyers can do with it."

The building is listed in the District Plan as a heritage building.

Hutt City Council senior environmental policy analyst Corinna Tessendorf says consent must be sought for any work beyond minor repairs and maintenance or interior redecoration.

Mr Hopkirk says national church bodies are facing a difficult situation.

"Because of what happened in the Christchurch earthquakes, the churches in particular were badly damaged, so the national churches said that all churches should get a survey done. . .

"A lot of churches are asking now do we rebuild or do we join up with this other church that's next door.

There is strong public interest in saving heritage buildings but huge costs involved and little funding available, he says.

"It's expensive to maintain buildings and keep them up to standard and that's not what the church is really about - when people give money to the church that's not what they give it for. It's people not buildings."

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NZ Historic Places Trust central region area co-ordinator David Watt says the Nelson St Methodist building is not currently registered as protected with the trust. However, as it was built prior to 1900 an archeological authority would need to be sought from the trust before the building could be altered, removed or demolished.

The Methodist Church of New Zealand initially refused to talk to the Hutt News for this article and did not reply by time of print.

- Hutt News


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