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The future of the elaborate Italian marble altar in Teschemakers Chapel is now heading to the High Court.
Father Mark Chamberlain, of Dunedin North Holy Name parish, late last week lodged an appeal with the High Court against a decision by the Environment Court ruling the altar was "part and parcel of the chapel" and could not be removed without resource consent from the Waitaki District Council.
Fr Chamberlain confirmed to the Otago Daily Times yesterday the High Court appeal on points of law had been lodged, which "absolutely shocked" Oamaru woman Susie Scott who had opposed its removal.
The chapel, built in 1916, is part of the former Catholic girls' boarding school, on land and buildings donated by Ms Scott's grandfather Peter McCarthy in 1911 and 1918.
The 270-piece altar, imported from Italy, was donated to the chapel in 1926 by the Hart family. When the Dominican Sisters sold Teschemakers in 2000, it intended to gift the altar and the chapel's stained glass windows to the Holy Name parish, that being formalised by a deed of transfer last year.
In August, attempts to remove the altar were thwarted by protesters who obtained an interim enforcement order preventing its removal, which was confirmed by the Environment Court in a decision last month after Fr Chamberlain had applied for the order to be set aside.
The court said the altar and stained glass windows were fixtures and could not be removed without a resource consent because that would be an alteration to the chapel, listed in the Waitaki district plan as a category B heritage item.
In response, Fr Chamberlain said he would consult lawyers and supporters before deciding whether to appeal or apply for resource consent.
Yesterday, he said the appeal would not have been lodged without support, including "from a large group of Catholics throughout New Zealand", and legal advice.
He acknowledged the decision to appeal had been a difficult one for all parties.
The next step was likely to be a pre-hearing conference between the parties.
Queen's Counsel Paul Cavanagh, who had led the Environment Court appeal, would represent Fr Chamberlain at the High Court.
"Absolutely shocked and stunned," was Ms Scott's reaction to the appeal yesterday.
She had gathered from Fr Chamberlain's comments after the Environment Court decision that he was more conciliatory, and could not believe a High Court appeal had now been lodged.
She was also amazed Holy Name parishioners had supported the appeal and the cost that would be involved.
"We have no choice but to defend [the Environment Court decision], she said.