Architect making plans for Iona Church

Historic Iona Church Restoration Trust trustee Lincoln Coe, of Dunedin, and Salmond Reed...
Historic Iona Church Restoration Trust trustee Lincoln Coe, of Dunedin, and Salmond Reed Architects conservation architect Tracey Hartley, of Auckland, inspect Iona Church in Port Chalmers as part of preparation for repairs and conservation; the church...
The exterior of the church.
The exterior of the church.
The view from the church's bell tower.
The view from the church's bell tower.
Looking out to the port from the church. Photos by Craig Baxter.
Looking out to the port from the church. Photos by Craig Baxter.

An Auckland conservation architect is in Port Chalmers this week, drawing up plans to make sure the historic Iona Church does not end up in the same state as many of its counterparts in Christchurch after a natural disaster.

About $2 million worth of conservation, repair work and earthquake strengthening will begin in June, and conservation architect Tracey Hartley, of Salmond Reed Architects, is visiting the church to prepare building plans and a detailed specification for the work.

Mrs Hartley was full of praise for the church's kauri beams and woodwork, stained glass windows, and Port Chalmers bluestone and Oamaru stone, which were still intact, but in need of some attention.

Much of the early work would be focused on the church's bell tower, which would be repaired and restored along with the town clock, she said.

"This structure is unique. It hasn't been altered. All of the original fabric is still here, so we are confident it can be restored to its original state."

Mrs Hartley said the church was more than 100 years old and it had not undergone a repair programme.

"With the exposure of the site to weather, it copes with a lot in terms of weather and erosion.

"The steeple is made of Oamaru stone, which erodes over time, so it needs the most work," she said.

"But it has lasted very well.

"Once the programme is complete, it will stand in good stead for another 100 years."

Mrs Hartley has been doing conservation work on historic buildings around New Zealand for the past 20 years.

Previous architectural conservation projects included work on the Auckland Town Hall, the Auckland Railway Station, Mansion House on Kawau Island and St Dominic's Priory in Dunedin.

After the major earthquakes in Christchurch last year, she was concerned engineers were condemning buildings without consulting specialist conservators and architects, who could work out the options for saving a building, Mrs Hartley said.

"It's one of the great things about historical buildings like this [Iona Church]. They are made of such good-quality material that, if maintained well, they have greater longevity.

"They last a lot longer than most modern structures in general.

"We're trying to make sure the main structure of Iona Church is secure so that the building will be brought up to an acceptable level of earthquake protection for the risk in this area."

Historic Iona Church Restoration Trust trustee Lincoln Coe said about $850,000 of funding had already been secured for the restoration efforts.

He said recent events in Christchurch had led to placing a higher priority on structural work to improve performance in an earthquake.

The project team's intention was to meet legislative requirements for the improvement of performance within the funding raised to date.

At the same time as the structural work is being implemented, weather-tightness work on the structure would be carried out, he said.

Iona Church is a Historic Places Trust category 1 building.

The first part of the stone building was designed by N.Y.A. Wales and was built in 1871-72.

In 1882-3, additions by Mason and Wales effectively created a new church with a steeple, in which the town clock was installed by Little John and Co, of Wellington, about 1885.

Iona Church is now a union parish serving Port Chalmers Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches.

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