Churches' destinies still up in the air

NATASHA THYNE AND ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014
st mary's church geraldine
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

STILL CLOSED: St Mary's Anglican church in Geraldine is expected to be closed for some time.

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The fate of some South Canterbury churches affected by the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 remains uncertain, with no firm dates or costs for repairs.

Nine churches are known to have sustained damage but only two are so far scheduled to be repaired this year.

The Catholic churches in Temuka and Pleasant Point have both had their Opus reports and are in consultation with the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch and the Historic Places Trust.

Opihi Parish's Peter Scott said because both St Joseph's in Temuka and St Mary's in Pleasant Point were categorised as historic buildings, they must wait for the Historic Places Trust report to get a full picture of how they can progress.

"It's a frustrating process but a correct process."

He said it looked doubtful that St Mary's would be reopened because of potential costs beyond what the community could support. An engineering report estimated repairs to cost upward of $1 million.

As well as financial issues, the church also faces the emotional effect on the parishioners, who feel unsafe in a building given the "earthquake-condemned" label.

"The conundrum is to spend the money on fixing the church when the parish is dwindling because of the ageing population and they don't feel safe, don't want to go near anything that's shaking."

Timaru Presbyterian Parish Reverend Rory Grant said the church was not the buildings, it was the people. "It's a bit of a cliche but it's true."

Trinity Presbyterian Church in College Road and Knox Church in Waimate are above building code, therefore do not need strengthening.

St Stephen's on Wai-iti Rd will be redeveloped and extended when Chalmers Church in Elizabeth Place sells.

St Paul's on Seddon St is sold and settlement is on January 30.

St Mary's Anglican Church on Church St will be refurbished and strengthened, possibly starting in April once the insurance money is received at the end of next month.

St Mary's Anglican Church in Geraldine is still closed and expected to remain so for some time, according to the vicar of Geraldine, Rev John Hayhoe.

He said there would have to be significant external strengthening, although given the fact the church was rendered opposed to stone the repair work will be easier.

"That doesn't mean it's going to be cheap. I'll be surprised if work started in 2014."

While St Mary's is out of commission, the Geraldine Anglican parish continues to use St Thomas' in Woodbury, which was not affected.

The Church of the Holy Innocents in Mount Peel was also badly damaged and awaiting repairs.

Rev Hayhoe said the parish has joined with the Church Properties Trustees and Diocese Church Team and hopes to get work started in spring.

The Methodist Church in Woodlands Rd will be earthquake-strengthened some time this year.

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- The Timaru Herald

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