Catholic church to reopen
Catholics will return to St Mary's Church in Blenheim for Sunday masses this week, parish priest Father Bill Warwick says.
The church has been shut since May after it was initially assessed as being about 8 per cent of the building code and at risk of collapse in a significant earthquake.
Father Warwick told parishioners on Sunday the parish knew it had work to do to get the building up to code. A parish working group had been formed, and masses will resume in the church this weekend.
Project Stronger spokesman David Mullin said a detailed study of the church confirmed the initial assessment.
The steeple was an area of concern, as was how the roof and walls connected.
Project Stronger is the Catholic archdiocese of Wellington's response to the Christchurch earthquakes. The Wellington archdiocese runs from Kaikoura in the south to Levin in the north.
Mr Mullin said St Mary's was due for significant maintenance work and the "significant strengthening" work needed as part of the quake response would be dealt with as part of that maintenance. A quantity surveyor was being hired, and detailed designs would be drawn up.
"A group has been formed to work on that, to prioritise what needs to be done first, in the medium term and the long term . . . This is a long-term project."
The costs would be significant.
"There is recognition that it is going to be a real struggle to raise the funds needed. People love the church, their faith community.
"This is a way to move forward, get them excited about the process. This is about helping the community move forward."
St Mary's was the priority for the Wellington archdiocese as it was the biggest church in Marlborough.
Other Catholic churches, particularly in Ward, Havelock and Picton, have also been assessed as earthquake-prone but they are much smaller and still await detailed engineering assessments.
Marlborough District Council resource management project officer Neil Morris said other denominations in Blenheim were assessing their churches.
The Presbyterian church had retained an engineer and the Anglican church was getting an engineer to investigate its churches, he said.
"Given the portfolios these organisations have, if they're addressing the issues, at least it's moving forward. They're not well-funded and they are organisations driven by other considerations.
"They'll make the calls that are necessary."
- The Marlborough Express