Quake-strengthening work to start soon

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by Chris Tobin

Timaru’s Sacred Heart basilica will close for earthquake strengthening work on Monday, February 11.

C Lund & Son, of Christchurch, has won the tender to complete the work for $2,552,473 plus GST, which does not include restoration of the dome.

“The work will involve strengthening work incorporating 35 tonnes of structural steel held together by 3000 bolts . . . installed into the heritage fabric of the building,” parish priest Fr Brian Fennessy said in the Holy Family parish bulletin.

A 10-month construction programme was expected to be completed in early December.

During this period all Sacred Heart Masses, as well as funerals, will be celebrated at St Thomas’.

“Once we are aware of scaffolding and parking restrictions, we will most likely have Tuesday and Saturday masses in the Sacred Heart presbytery chapel. Friday Masses are yet to be decided.”

In October last year, the Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, the Most Rev Paul Martin, said the diocese would manage the cashflow around the work.

After a fundraising campaign was launched in June 2018, nearly $1 million of a targeted $1.6million was raised by the parish, leaving another $600,000 to raise.

The total cost of the project is expected to be about $3.9 million, and the Canterbury diocese is contributing close to $700,000.

Holy Family parish council chairman Gary Shand said they were now over the million-dollar mark.

“We’ll probably have a wee public appeal but it won’t be too full on; it might be something like text messages to give $3 or something like that, and a few raffles.

“We’ve been going round to trusts as well and that takes time getting replies.”

He said the support of the diocese had been great and an open day for the public held at the end of last year was very successful.

“When it’s done we plan to have another open day.”

He said some underfloor heating in the front section of the basilica, an improved sound system and work to prevent leaking from the dome would also be undertaken.

On Sunday, February 10, the day before the basilica closes for work, a Canterbury Earthquake Memorial organ recital will be held.

“Over the past seven years this recital has been organised by John Hargreaves as an earthquake memorial tribute,” Fr Fennessy said.

The strengthening work has been considered necessary after the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes, when investigations revealed the basilica, which is a category one Heritage New Zealand landmark, was no longer able to meet the new safety and building standards required for an earthquake-prone building.