Church strengthening hinges on funding

HANK SCHOUTEN
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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Strengthening St Mary of the Angels church in central Wellington is going to cost about $9.35 million.

The French Gothic-style church in Boulcott St, built in the 1920s, was closed after the 6.5 magnitude quake on July 21 last year.

Parish priest Father Barry Scannell said that at present it met between 15 and 20 per cent of the new building standard and would need significant work on its foundations and structure to bring it as close to 100 per cent as possible.

Engineers, architects and geotechnical consultants had spent months preparing plans for the project, which was expected to take 18 months to complete. New piles had to be sunk to bedrock under the front section of the church, which was built on fill. These would support new foundation beams and a new concrete floor.

The church structure would then be strengthened with reinforced concrete shear walls. Work would also be done to strengthen the columns, and new concrete portals would have to be installed to support a new copper roof.

However, money needed to be raised before work could start, Father Scannell said. He expected the strengthening would have to be done in two stages.

"The first stage is the structural stuff below the floor slab. The cost of that is about $2.8m and we would like to get on to that as soon as we raise the money."

The church would need help from wherever it could get it because the archdiocese, which had responsibility for many other churches, was not able to help.

St Marys also had a small pool of parishioners - before the quake an average of 650 people attended mass each week.

"It's a major project but the church is so beautiful we need to save it," he said. "It's not only a church - it's used for so many cultural events as well."

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- The Dominion Post

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