Editorial: Have church, willing to negotiate

OPINION: 

Timaru businessman Dean Van Buuren will have known he was opening himself up to criticism in seeking public support to preserve Chalmers Church.

The church he purchased 10 months ago because, effectively, it came as part of a job lot, and the building he really wanted was the church hall.

But to then turn around and say he can't afford to pay the upkeep on the 112-year-old building will seem to some to be a bit rich. As one email to the Herald put it, "my 1930s house needs a paint job, will you help me pay for it?"

Yet there are a couple of differences here.

A church is a church. It has history. In a town the size of Timaru, it's a landmark. And while it might be a stretch to call this one beautiful, it's not ugly.

And Van Buuren makes the point that if no one pays for the upkeep it could become an eyesore akin to the Hydro Grand, and the town doesn't need another one of those.

Also, he says he's paid $50,000 so far for a detailed structural report, and will be up for a bit more to do the resulting work that's required, although it isn't major.

So you could argue he's saved a church. He's taken a risk that the $1 million the initial reports suggested would be required to bring the church up to the earthquake code were excessive, and that's been the case. His engineering background would have assisted there.

The parish could also have paid for a more detailed report, but opted not to. A declining congregation may also have been a factor.

So Van Buuren has at least given the community an option.

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Perhaps he could have done it in a more low-key way, although we have to accept some responsibility due to our front page placement of the story. Perhaps an approach to the Presbyterian parish? Might it be interested in coming to some lease arrangement? The Coptic church was also interested in the church at one point - is it still?

Is there anyone else out there interested?

By going public Van Buuren has cast that net wide.

And if, at the end of the day, the town gets to keep a landmark building that is well maintained, that has to be better than the alternative.

 - The Timaru Herald

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