Church deemed quake risk

Parishioners of a Westport church will continue to attend mass there, despite learning the building is high earthquake risk.

An initial evaluation assessment found the 37-year-old St Canice's Catholic Church was only 18 per cent compliant with the New Building Standards, said Father Raymond Soriano.

This gave it a grade E rating, the lowest possible and meant it was 25-40 times more liable to collapse in a quake than a 100 per cent compliant building.

The parish had decided to continue to hold services at the church, but would leave it closed at other times, said Fr Soriano.

Once a detailed assessment had been carried out, no later than the beginning of next year, the parish would know exactly what remedial work was needed to bring the church up to standard.

In the meantime the parish council would be erecting signs at all entrances to advise people of the earthquake risk and St Canice's School pupils would not be allowed on site as part of school activities.

Fr Soriano said he shared the news with the congregation at Sunday Mass.

It had been heartening to hear people say they would continue to attend mass until they had received the detailed assessment.

However, the danger was likely to only be above the pulpit where he preached from anyway, he said.

Having seen the collapse of buildings during many quakes in both the Philippines and California, he was not fazed by the idea of another one.

"When it comes, it comes, but it's important to let people know the risks."

Phelan Hall and Karamea Church had also been assessed and given a grade C.

Phelan Hall met 44 per cent of the New Building Standard and Karamea Church 36 per cent.

St Canice's was built in 1975 and designed by acclaimed New Zealand architect John Scott.

According to a website by Craig Martin dedicated to Scott's work, St Canice's was a "wonderfully imagined building" with a "logic and elegance of its own".

Based around the shape of a fan it was made from cast concrete or concrete block, stained wood, coloured acrylic, hard floors and timber, said Mr Martin.

Born in 1924, Scott's most famous building was the Chapel of Futuna in Karori.

His work was a departure from the architecture of the time, which still looked to a European heritage, said Mr Martin.

Scott was able to take New Zealand forms and develop a New Zealand vernacular. Before his death in 1992 Scott won a New Zealand Institute of Architects gold medal award and a 25 Year Award for the Chapel of Futuna.

- By Keira Stephenson of The Westport News

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