by NZ CATHOLIC staff
LOWER HUTT — Sts Peter and Paul church on Knights Rd in Lower Hutt has been closed because it is an earthquake risk.
There will be no Mass at the church for a while because of fears that it would collapse in a large earthquake.
The building will now undergo a detailed assessment to see if it has a future, and what it will cost to strengthen it.
Fr Bruce England made the announcement to parishioners on Sunday night. Easter Sunday Masses will now be held in the St Bernard’s College gymnasium.
Wellington archdiocese general manager Paul Bayliss emphasised that it does not necessarily mean the end of the building, which is only 11 per cent compliant with current regulations.
The decision to stop using the church was made on the basis of an initial assessment, after the cost of insurance increased following the Christchurch earthquakes.
Insurers now want a lot more information about buildings, he says. As part of an assessment of all diocese buildings, Sts Peter and Paul’s was identified as a problem.
Church policy is to allow individual parishes to decide the future of their buildings, and Mr Bayliss said the decision to stop using it was made by locals.
“In the interests of their parishioners and in the interests of being cautious, they will hold sessions elsewhere while they wait for a detailed evaluation.”
There are 180 buildings in the diocese, and every building has had an initial assessment. Wellington has a major problem, he said, as insurers have made it clear they cannot ignore the high earthquake risk. He would not comment on other Lower Hutt churches, but confirmed that there are other buildings that might need to be closed.
If the Sts Peter and Paul church does need replacing or expensive renovations, the parish will have to find the money.
“The bishop is not sitting on a pot of gold. It is up to each individual parish.”
One caller to Hutt News suggested that with uncertainty about at least two other Catholic churches, it could lead to parish mergers across the city.
Mr Bayliss said Wellington archbishop John Dew had instigated a review of parish boundaries, but that was put on hold while the earthquake issue is dealt with.
A Mission to the River Hutt — A History of the Catholic Church in the Hutt Valley 1850 to 2000 by B. J. Cullinane says the Sts Peter and Paul church was opened on September 17, 1945.
The builder, David Daily, struggled to get all the cement needed because of war-time restrictions. He eventually found enough cement and laid the foundation. He was subsequently fined for breaching wartime regulations, but the book does not record who paid the fine.