St Mary's set for quake repairs

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2013
st mary's timaru
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ
REBUILD PLANS: Quake-hit St Mary's Church is to be repaired now that insurance has been paid out.

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Timaru's St Mary's Church will undergo millions of dollars of repairs next year thanks to its insurance settlement finally coming through.

Chairman of the vestry and restoration trust Ray Bennett said the news could not have come at a better time.

"Of all the Christmas presents we could get, apart from Christmas itself, this is a marvellous present to get."

The Church Property Trustees (CPT) buildings and property sub-committee made the decision to close the 104-year-old church indefinitely on February 19, 2012, after an engineer's report found parts of it met only 10 per cent of the building code when 33 per cent was required.

Parishioners have since been using the chapel at Craighead Diocesan School.

"We are grateful to Craighead, but it's not your own church," Mr Bennett said, of the desire to get back to St Mary's. It's been three years since the earthquake so we've been waiting 2 years to get approval to do the work."

That work will include strengthening and repairs, he said.

"We'll be talking several million dollars [worth of work]."

However, he did not know what that exact figure would be or when the work would be started or completed.

"We're pretty sure it will be 2014 that we get back into St Mary's."

The insurance settlement was a "global" one, which was not "site specific", he said.

St Mary's sustained "zigzag cracking" up the stonework on both sides of the sanctuary during the September 2010 earthquake, which also caused the bell tower pinnacles to swivel.

They were later removed by crane, along with stone crosses from the roof points. The bell tower now meets 70 per cent of the current building code.

Mr Bennett said although the church was still out of bounds, its car park was not.

As a result, members of the church have decided to host a children's open air service, complete with donkeys, on site tomorrow night, from 6pm.

"We would normally have a Christmas service [in the church] and the children would dress up. This time we're doing it outside ... in the St Mary's car park."

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- The Timaru Herald

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