by Chris Tobin
An application by the Catholic Parish of Opihi Trust for help in earthquake-strengthening Temuka’s St Joseph’s Church, and building a church at Pleasant Point to replace quake-damaged St Mary’s, has been declined by the Timaru District Council.
The trust applied to the council’s stimulus fund for $301,780 for the work, which has a total cost of $3.1million.
The Catholic Diocese of Christchurch said in the application it had committed $1.04million for the projects, with the Catholic community contributing $1.4million from the sale of parish assets, donations and fundraising.
This left a shortfall of $595,507 to be raised before work could start.
“These projects will be a significant economic investment in the region.”
Timaru Mayor Nigel Bowen said a key driver for the councillors in deciding which projects received stimulus funding was supporting those with the biggest short-term “shovel-ready” stimulus, while delivering the community excellent new facilities in the long term.
“While we couldn’t support every project, for those that didn’t gain funding through this specific fund, we’ve made sure that we’ve highlighted alternative sources of support, both within council and from other external funding bodies.”
After the Christchurch earthquakes, St Joseph’s, a category 2 historic building, had its spire removed and access restrictions were enforced. The church reopened in December 2016.
“Despite the work done, the overall structure is still deemed below 34% of the National Building Standard,” the Catholic diocese said.
“Extensive work is required before it can be open for full use by the community.”
The church contains bells commissioned from New York in 1881 as well as 31 French stained-glass windows. The Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury has given a $25,000 grant towards their restoration.
The plan for St Mary’s in Pleasant Point was to build a new church on an adjacent site, retaining as much of the old church as possible, including the stained-glass windows.