Historic church faces uncertain future

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 08:24 24/07/2014
St Paul’s Methodist Church
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ

NOT TO CODE: St Paul’s Methodist Church was built in 1906 and enlarged in 1914. The church is no longer used for services after an engineer’s report indicated the building did not meet building code standards.

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The fate of one of Hamilton's oldest churches remains uncertain with its Methodist owners ruling out demolition - for now.

Concern over the future of the 108-year-old St Paul's Methodist Church on London St was heightened after the demolition of its sister church, St John's Methodist Church, this month. The century-old Hamilton East chapel was bulldozed after an engineer's report indicated the building could collapse in an earthquake.

The fate of St Paul's Methodist Church was discussed by the council's heritage advisory panel this week.

Panel chairman and deputy mayor Gordon Chesterman said he wanted to set up a meeting between the council and Hamilton Methodist Parish to discuss the building's fate.

The church is listed as a Category B heritage item in Hamilton's new district plan.

"The church is sitting on a valuable development site and rather than entertain demolition, if that was going to be the bottom line, then I would like to see if the church would be prepared to offer it for a $1 in exchange for a group or person who might move it."

An engineer's report in 2012 found the building was below the required standard of earthquake strength required under the Building Act.

The Rev Edwin Clarke said the parish had no plans for the church "at the moment" but all options would be considered. The building was not currently in use.

"We haven't earmarked it for demolition. We could talk about possibilities but . . . it's far too premature to comment on those things," he said.

Clarke said it was important the church's buildings met high safety standards.

"If an earthquake was to happen, and there was loss of life, then the very people that would be protesting about the demolition of the building would be the first to complain that the church was not keeping their building up to standard."

Architectural historian and heritage consultant Dr Ann McEwan said because the church was listed as a heritage item, its owners would need a resource consent to demolish it.

"I wouldn't say it was the most ecclesiastical building in Hamilton city but it is an inner-city church and that's one of the reasons why it is important," McEwan said.

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- Waikato Times

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