St Paul's passes test but risks still remain

The Very Rev Dr Trevor James takes a stroll around St Paul's Cathedral in the Octagon. Photo by...
The Very Rev Dr Trevor James takes a stroll around St Paul's Cathedral in the Octagon. Photo by Dan Hutchinson

Dunedin church administrators say they are taking a hard look at what buildings they need and what they will "divest" themselves of over the next few years, as the results of earthquake-risk assessments come in. Dan Hutchinson reports.

There is ''relief all round'' after St Paul's Cathedral passed minimum earthquake standards recently but that might not be enough to satisfy its owners or the general public.

Anglican Diocese manager Graeme Sykes said all the diocese's churches and halls had passed the criteria for older buildings - 34% of the new building standard - but there was no money to make any major improvements.

''It [St Paul's] has passed but really, that is in a prime public area so [there are] a lot of people around it, people coming and going, general public.

''It is not in a bad state, it is in an OK state, but still, you start tinkering with that building and you would be looking at fairly significant amounts of money and it doesn't have a big congregation.''

Mr Sykes said St Paul's was an example of a building that would need a lot of fundraising to make significant improvements.

About 30 Anglican Church buildings had been assessed, with just the St Kilda church and part of a hall in Northeast Valley closed because of risk.

Over the next one or two years, decisions would be made at a parish level on the future of buildings, including the possibility of merging some churches, especially in rural areas, '' and maybe in some cases the buildings are less important'', Mr Sykes said.

Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland executive officer Fergus Sime said they were still waiting for all the reports to come in.

Last month, the Dunedin City Council extended by a year its deadline for pre-1976 non-residential buildings to be tested for seismic strength. Only 14% of reports were done by the July 1, 2014, deadline.

Mr Sime said once the 75 building reports for Otago and Southland were done, the synod would work with parishes to help them decide on the future of their buildings.

The Very Rev Dr Trevor James, of St Paul's Cathedral, said there was ''relief all round'' St Paul's exceeded the minimum code but he still wanted to bring it up to a higher standard.

''The wider community would be quite bereft if we didn't have the cathedral here and it wasn't safe and functioning. It is an important part of the city scape.

''It is a constant demand on us that we maintain the building and how we do something over and above [that] ... is quite a challenge.''

He said one of the problems was that habits of church-going and church affiliation had waned over the last 100 years so there was not the same base of financial support. Money would need to be sourced from the community and trusts.

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