Engineers to look at Hokitika's historic church
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
Engineers will start examining Hokitika's landmark St Mary's Catholic Church today for earthquake risks after last Friday's shock closure.
It is the first Catholic church to shut its doors outside the wider Christchurch area since the September 2010 quake.
Catholic Diocese of Christchurch's financial administrator, Paddy Beban, said he acted immediately after property consultants Opus International Consultants warned last week the church was unsafe "as a place of assembly".
"I have had an email saying there are concerns about (the church's) structural integrity and it shouldn't be used as a gathering place.
"We don't want to sit on our hands getting the structure stuff to the nth degree first."
A temporary fence was erected around the church last Friday and masses shifted to the St Mary's School hall next door.
Beban said the news would have come "as a bombshell" for parishioners.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust listed the church a category one building.
It started being built in 1914 and was completed in 1928, becoming the small West Coast township's tallest building.
"I fully appreciate people are well attached to it. These decisions aren't made lightly.
"It's something that happens all the time in Christchurch.
"I suppose one becomes insensitive in some way because it's an everyday occurrence here," Beban said.
Since the quakes began in Christchurch in September 2010, the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch had deemed 20 churches unable to be used, including a few that had been demolished.
Beban said it had been assessing churches outside the Canterbury area recently, focusing on seismically threatened areas.
New Zealand's largest earthquake fault line, the Alpine Fault, stretches the length of the Southern Alps and is only about 30km from Hokitika.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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