Sunday, January 6, 2013

For Whom The Bell Tolls

This Christmas may have been the last for the historic St Stephen's Presbyterian Church in Ponsonby.
The Gothic-style wooden church officially opened on the corner of Jervois and Shelly Beach Roads on 28 Jan.1880 (built at a cost of £300). But dwindling congregations and large bills for earthquake-proofing may force it to close its doors, as the Presbyterian Church of NZ assesses its buildings.
Churchgoers were told that safeguarding the building would cost in excess of 500K, which the parish can't afford to pay as it only has 30-40 members.
A recent evaluation showed the church only scored 29% of the current earthquake standard for new buildings. The Building Act 2004 requires them to be no less than 34%. So as it stands, the church would be 10-25 times more at risk during an earthquake than a new building. It is considered to be legally earthquake-prone.
Northern Presbytery project manager Forbes Worn says the decision is out of the hands of the Presbyterian Church, and there're up to 30 Presbyterian churches in Auckland facing similar problems.
The church in 1898...
'Sir George Grey Special Collections,
Auckland Libraries, 4-3540'
I've walked past the church on a number of Sundays, and delighted at the beautiful singing emanating from within. If this church is lost, it will be yet another sad day for NZ's heritage levels. Christchurch's EQ losses have catapulted risk assessments to the top of the national agenda, with the result that EQ future-proofing is now a bigger gravy train than the Treaty of Waitangi!
A decision on St Stephen's future is likely by February. One hopes the decisionmakers consider how statistically low the possibility of a damaging EQ in Auckland actually is.
The value to the city and NZ of this gorgeous church must exceed the projected $500K strengthening bill! Surely the current EQ paranoia can accommodate the saving of what little heritage this young country contains...
[...many thanx for the heads-up from Timespanner]

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