Safety first for church
A Church Property Trustees (CPT) building and properties committee member says the safety of St Mary's churchgoers is a priority.
He was responding to a decision last week by the church vestry committee to reopen the church if an engineering report was not received by August 10.
The church and hall were closed in February after parts of it were found to meet just 10 per cent of the building code, rather than the required 33 per cent.
A report noted the buildings required significant earthquake strengthening. They have remained closed since while an engineering report is awaited.
A letter was sent to the trustees by church warden Barrie Wood informing them of the vestry decision and expressing the church's frustration that reports that had been expected by the end of May were still outstanding.
Trustee committee member Richard Gray said last night that safety was the principal consideration of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch and the property trustees. "That is and remains the priority."
He said that although South Canterbury was not under the jurisdiction of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), as Christchurch churches are, it would not make a difference if it was.
"Cera does drive decision-making of the church and everybody else up here, but it wouldn't really matter what they did or not.
"Our job is to protect people and not put them at risk.
"We've been lucky so far, very lucky with [the Christ Church] Cathedral, and nobody being killed in that," Mr Grey said.
" We have to err on the side of caution all the time. It's the naturally protective thing to do."
There were parishes all over Canterbury in similar situations.
"Every parish has got their own frustrations."
Mr Gray said he could not comment on how the trustees would respond to the vestry committee's letter.
But he said the trustees would meet tonight and he believed the issue was on the agenda.
"The frustrations are understood and appreciated, but until I know the facts around what this situation is I can't offer any more."
Mr Wood said the church was now waiting for a response from the CPT before taking further steps.
"My role is to reflect the thinking of the people . . . but that doesn't overarch regulation or common sense."
If the church was to reopen it would be the decision of the vestry committee.
The intention was to reopen the church, "but how that is to happen I can't tell you myself", Mr Wood said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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