Methodist Mission chief executive Laura Black with a model
of the mission's proposed social services complex on
Hillside Rd. Peter McIntosh. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The Wesley Church building in Hillside Rd, Dunedin,
fitted with neither the tradition nor the future needs of the
Methodist church, and moves to preserve it on historic grounds
were a "sideshow", a resource consent committee heard
The Methodist Mission, which plans to demolish the building
to build a community support village on the site, argued
strongly for recognition of the need for such a facility, and
against opposition from heritage groups to the demolition.
A consent committee of Dunedin councillors Colin Weatherall,
Andrew Noone and Richard Walls began a hearing, which
finishes today, into the mission's application for a new $5.6
million social services complex on the site.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has opposed the
development because of the plan to demolish the church
building, which dates back to 1894.
The trust has called for the building to be saved and reused,
but its stance on the development, and its submission, to be
presented today, was regularly criticised by the mission's
Counsel Phil Page, for the mission, said the application was
not seeking consent to demolish the church.
"The church must be demolished, but your consent is not
required for that."
The building had not been listed by the trust, nor had it
been protected under the council's district plan.
"The simple fact is that this is not an application about
historic heritage. That matter has already been decided by
the district plan."
Mr Page said the consent process was about enabling the
community to provide for their social, cultural and economic
"Everything else is a sideshow. I would invite you not to go
Methodist minister the Rev Donald Phillipps gave the hearing
a history lesson on the building, and the Methodist ethos,
which was that religious activities were carried out in
buildings that were not built "to the glory of God".
Instead, Methodist buildings were essentially utilitarian,
far removed from the tradition of Anglican parish churches.
Mission chief executive Laura Black said the church building
spoke of Victorian values of "temperance, emotional
repression, prudishness and authority".
"And it does this very well. Unfortunately, Victorian values
are incompatible with those of modern Methodism, of the
mission, of effective and meaningful social services."
Suggestions the church could be sold for use as a cafe or
gallery ignored the socioeconomic status of the area, and its
Any potential owner wanting to buy and modify the church
would have to pay an enormous cost to reach compliance
standards for a building that was a liability, and would soon
become unusable and unsaleable.
Ms Black said if the committee insisted on retaining the
building, or its entrance in situ, the mission would have to
reconsider the entire proposal.
Architect Ashley Muir said he had considered reuse of the
building, but found it had few architectural expressions of a
church, like stained-glass windows, a steeple or a bell
The site was heavily compromised by the "charmless" building,
which shaded the entire site at times, and would be a serious
impediment to what was being planned there.
He said the NZHPT had originally suggested the entrance to
the building be reused, but had made an "about face" to call
for the retention of the whole building.
To satisfy that organisation's interests, he suggested the
line of the foundation wall of the building be marked inside
and outside the new buildings to mark its historical
Answering questions from the committee, Mr Muir said the
development would be "an immensely positive influence" on the
future of South Dunedin.
Jeff Dickie launched into a wide-ranging argument that the
council was not putting enough effort into looking after its
heritage buildings, and was stopped by Cr Weatherall, who
asked him to concentrate on the application.
Mr Dickie said Dunedin needed to look after what it had, and
it was time to stop allowing the destruction of the city's
Cr Weatherall explained to the meeting the council had no
power to stop the applicant demolishing the building.
"That's the dilemma we face."
Nigel Pitts, a church member, asked whether the focus should
be on built heritage "and a dash of nostalgia", or people,
and said it should be people every time.