St Patrick's Basilica redevelopment committee member Sean Toomey takes a stroll through a new community park next to the old building. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
Modern church attitudes that put people before buildings
are about to collide with a critical engineering analysis of
the earthquake strength of Dunedin's historic places of
worship. Dan Hutchinson investigates the cost and benefit
decisions facing many church administrators in the city.
It is crunch time for many of Dunedin's church buildings as
the owners ponder the outcome of structural engineering
Otago and Southland Anglican Diocese manager Graeme Sykes is
one of those who has received a pile of engineering reports
and now has decisions to make - strengthen or demolish.
He is in the process of going to individual church
communities and asking for their thoughts.
Batchelar McDougall Consulting director Graham McDougall is
halfway through checking more than 100 Anglican and
Presbyterian buildings in Otago and Southland.
He ''very much'' doubted that all of the churches in Dunedin
would survive the examination and in some cases, saving old
buildings might not be in the community's best interests.
''Any of the old brick or stone churches, in general, need
things done. The more modern churches or [those of] timber
Management of the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin could not be
contacted for comment but at least one of their buildings -
St Patrick's Basilica in South Dunedin - will be getting
St Patrick's Redevelopment Committee chairman Sean Toomey
said the 118-year-old building would get an estimated $1.35
million renovation that included strengthening and
Like the Anglican church, the Catholic Diocese had a target
of reaching 67% of the new building standard which is almost
twice what is required by the Dunedin City Council (34% of
new building standard).
Mr Toomey said the church preferred to spend its money on
social services, rather than fancy buildings, but it was
cheaper to restore the Basilica than build a new one and it
was a protected historic building.
A further $1.35 million had already been spent on converting
the nearby St Patrick's School into an administration block
for Catholic Social Services, along with two large community
They had also demolished the old presbytery between the
former school and the Basilica and had installed a public
park and playgrounds.
''A lot of people will tell you that the church is not the
building, the church is the people. Traditionally, of course,
that has not always been the view but that is the current
view,'' Mr McDougall said.
Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland executive officer
Fergus Sime said the church's buildings were still being
examined and the process should be finished by the middle of
- Additional reporting Tim Miller