Churchgoers want cash from insurer

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2012

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Timaru's St Paul's Presbyterian Church congregation is seeking cash for its earthquake insurance claim, but no decision on whether it will repair the church has been made.

Reverend Dr Susan Jones, of the Timaru Presbyterian Parish, confirmed the St Paul's worship centre community would request a cash settlement of $70,000 from insurance company Ansvar for damage to the Seddon St church.

That decision needed to be confirmed by several other church committees before the insurer was approached. The process could take a couple of months.

Dr Jones said the decision to ask for a payout rather than have the repair work done was no indication of the church community's long-term plans for the building.

"The whole thing about this decision is avoiding a commitment to carry out repairs at some time."

The insurance is sufficient to repair the church to the same standard it was before the earthquakes, but not to upgrade it to the minimum of 34 per cent of the present building code, which is required for public buildings.

Dr Jones said several churches in the region were investigating the cash option. She believed the insurance company could look favourably on the option as Ansvar had indicated it was looking to withdraw from New Zealand.

The quote for repairs to Chalmers Presbyterian Church and the neighbouring Chalmers Friendship Centre in Elizabeth Pl had just been received and that church's community had yet to meet to discuss it, Dr Jones said.

In November, engineers cleared Chalmers Church for use, but the church council chose to close both Chalmers and St Paul's to ensure the safety of the public as much as it could. The friendship centre was closed for public use in April on the advice of engineers.

The parish has yet to decide on the future of all its Timaru churches and buildings.

Temuka's century-old Trinity Presbyterian Church was severely damaged in the quakes and is about to be demolished.

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- The Timaru Herald

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