Council help sought to save churches

The owners of two of Palmerston North's heritage churches, All Saints and St Andrews, are looking for greater city council help in order to preserve their buildings.

Both made submissions on the second day of a commissioners' hearing on Proposed Plan Change 13, the review of the natural and cultural heritage section of the District Plan.

And both of them objected to increased regulation that they feared would make it harder and more expensive to make the earthquake-prone churches safe and see them preserved.

St Andrews' spokesman Peter Thomson said the church did not know yet whether it would make alterations to bring the church up to new building standards, or demolish it.

He said church members wanted to preserve the church that they and their families were familiar with.

"But we face a conflict between a desire to retain the building in its present form, and the requirement to undertake earthquake strengthening.

"There is also the dichotomy between spending money on a building, and spending money on good work."

Thomson said the church was waiting for a detailed engineering assessment before it knew how much would have to be spent to strengthen the building.

That was at least likely to involve replacing heavy roof tiles with a lighter roofing material.

Thomson opposed changes to the District Plan that would make it harder to get consent to either alter or demolish.

All Saints advisory board member and architect David Chapple said All Saints would need significant strengthening work to reduce its earthquake risks and allow the congregation to return.

The church was closed in April last year after being assessed as meeting only 3 per cent of the new building code.

Chapple said anything that made it harder to get consent for the changes that would have to be made were an impediment to restoring and preserving the church.

He wanted a more conciliatory approach from the council, rather than one of regulation.

Chapple said the church was pleased council policy planner Matt Mackay had toned down the rules for seeking consent to carry out internal alterations or partial demolition of the exterior.

But he said the council had gone the wrong way about doing things and should have developed a heritage strategy before the District Plan review.

"Unlike other submitters who do not accept the need to preserve our heritage, we do, and we are looking for support."

Mackay said in summing up at the end of the hearing that the council had a statutory obligation to make progress reviewing the District Plan.

He said Palmerston North did not have a rich heritage, and it was important to protect what it had.

There was an intention to develop a heritage strategy, and that would identify what else the council could do to support owners to preserve heritage buildings.

Manawatu Standard