As various religious denominations make plans to have the
structural strength of their historic Dunedin churches
assessed, some are already preparing for the worst.
One minister has described the costs of the likely
strengthening work required on many old Dunedin churches,
coming on top of hikes in insurance costs for churches as a
Under its new earthquake-prone building policy, the Dunedin
City Council has sent letters to owners requiring the
strength of all pre-1976 non-residential buildings in the
city to be assessed within two years.
If buildings were below strength, owners would be given
between 15 and 30 years to have the buildings brought up to a
Church representatives contacted yesterday said most of
the city's church buildings, including the major historic
churches, had yet to be assessed, although plans were being
made to begin the work.
If buildings are found to have a seismic strength below 34%
of current building code and are considered earthquake-prone,
owners will be issued a notice by council requiring the
building strength be brought up to code requirements.
That work is widely expected to be prohibitive for parishes,
which, particularly in the south, own dozens of historic
buildings constructed from materials, including stone,
considered to be particularly at risk from earthquakes.
The Anglican Diocese of Otago and Southland and the
Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland said parishes in
their areas would be contacted in the next few months and
asked to get assessments done on their buildings.
Dunedin Catholic Diocese general manager Stuart Young said a
structural engineer was already assessing the big Catholic
churches of the diocese, including St Joseph's Cathedral, St
Patrick's Basilica, St Bernadette's (Dunedin), Holy Cross
College (Mosgiel), St Patrick's Basilica (Oamaru), The Irish
Martyrs (Cromwell) and St Mary's (Invercargill). Others would
be done by 2014.
The diocese expected to receive the completed reports for the
major churches by the end of the year.
Superintendent Presbyter of the Dunedin parish of the
Methodist Church Rev Siosifa Pole said the Methodist Church
of New Zealand was organising assessments of Methodist
churches in Dunedin.
It had already issued a notice to parishes instructing them
that any building found to be at risk from an earthquake was
to be vacated and not used until it was confirmed safe, or
strengthened to 67% of current building code.
The Rev Selwyn Yeoman, of the Presbyterian Coastal Unity
parish in Caversham, said churches were struggling not only
with hikes in insurance, but other bills for maintenance and
the like on buildings that were often more than 100 years
His parish of 230 people was already facing a $500,000 bill
for maintenance and waterproofing on the grade-1 listed
historic Caversham Presbyterian Church, even before it had
the church assessed for structural strength.
Any costs for strengthening would be on top of that.
"The nightmare becomes a double nightmare."
The parish was actively trying to work out its options, but
all, even the most traditionalist parishioners, had already
agreed they must not rule out anything, including sale or
They had already discussed how they might reuse the important
elements of the building, for example, the stained glass