Another church faces demolition

St James Presbyterian Church in South Dunedin is the latest expected to be demolished. PHOTO:...
St James Presbyterian Church in South Dunedin is the latest expected to be demolished. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Another historic Presbyterian church is facing demolition as earthquake rules and diminishing congregations continue to bite.

The St James Church in King Edward St, South Dunedin, built in 1890, is the latest set to go, as tenders go out for the demolition of the Maori Hill Presbyterian Church on Highgate.

The future of Dunedin's historic churches has looked grim for some time.

The 1914 Anderson's Bay Church is tagged for sale after closing in 2015, when the parish was dissolved due to dwindling numbers and finances, and an earthquake assessment showed repair costs that could not be covered.

The Kaikorai Presbyterian Church closed its 1907 building in 2017 and moved to a hall next door after it received a report that showed it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring it up to standard.

Session clerk Philip Dunn said yesterday there were no plans to demolish, but also no plans yet for its future.

The Maori Hill church also succumbed to high earthquake strengthening costs and lower congregation numbers.

Dunedin South Presbyterian Church interim moderator the Rev Geoffrey Skilton said the congregation there had decided not to continue to use the church.

He said the building was last used in June last year, with the congregation of between 30 and 36 people - the vast majority of whom were retired - worshipping in the church hall.

The decision was made at a recent annual meeting not to spend more money on the church building, something "a very clear majority'' voted for.

The plan was to work on building a new chapel space at the back of the section using some materials from the old building.

That would be a smaller space that could take up to 80 people.

Mr Skilton said that plan was at an early stage, as there was as yet no permission from the Southern Presbytery to undertake demolition.

The church building had "engineering, water and earthquake issues'', although dealing with what was required to make it earthquake proof was the major problem.

Even if money was spent on that, the church would be left with an old, uninsulated building.

"It's just not fit for purpose really.''

The church would try to retain the stained glass windows and the like for the new building.

It was seeking permission from the Southern Presbytery and the Synod of Otago and Southland, the trustees of the building, to go ahead.

The congregation would build with funds it had, Mr Skilton said.

"There are funds available.''

The church had been in a transition stage of working out what to do with its ageing buildings and how to provide for its community "as it currently is''.

It had to decide on the best use of its funds to provide a place of worship for its community.

That meant having room for some growth, "but not being unrealistic in these days when people choose not to use churches for worship''.



This is crazy - we already have the infrastructure for civil defence and neighbourhood support which all cities are going to desperately need with the extreme weather events related to climate change and we are letting it slip away. And we will never be able to afford to replace it with a no doubt horribly expensive updated system in time to be fit for purpose. Regardless of its ownership, ( and whether or not you are religious) Dunedin’s physical church network is a profound city asset and should be financially maintained by the city. Please email the mayor to say so if you agree. Before it is too late! Once lost, gone forever.

Thank you very much, just when StJ got Sunday meals going again.