The Auckland Catholic Tertiary Chaplaincy team has left its home at historic Newman Hall on Waterloo Quadrant for a new base on Symonds St. Auckland Catholic diocese sold the Newman Hall property last year after it was put up for sale in late 2016.
According to the qv.co.nz website, the property was sold in May, 2017, for $11million. The new owners are understood to be the Anglican Church’s Melanesian Mission Trust, which late last year was reported to have an asset base of $212million and growing.
Bishop Patrick Dunn told a bishop’s forum event in Ponsonby on May 27 that “the old building [Newman Hall] became a seismic issue” and “unfortunately, we felt obliged to sell that building”.
The diocese had owned the property since 1947. The final tertiary chaplaincy Mass at Newman Hall was celebrated on June 1.
Tertiary chaplain Fr Chris Denham told NZ Catholic that the building was in very poor condition and some parts of it were off limits.
The new owners did a survey, Fr Denham said, “and they were very upset at what they found, you know, just the risks they felt were unacceptable, there were certain parts of the building they are not allowing anybody in because of the risk of collapse”.
He added that the tertiary chaplaincy had a right to renew its lease for another 12 months, “but the owners were unhappy about the health and safety obligations that they would be under, and they were not comfortable with it, frankly, and made it clear that this would require insurance and so forth at a level that just was not viable for us”.
So now the chaplaincy has moved to new leased premises at 110 Symonds St, which Fr Denham said is significantly closer for medicine and nursing students at Grafton and for AUT University students, than Newman Hall was, but is further away for others, for example, law students.
Tertiary lay chaplain Dominic Malgeri said he has mixed feelings about leaving Newman Hall.
The state of the building, including a large crack in a wall in the study room, an unsafe fire escape, ant infestations, some power sockets that don’t work and an unreliable Internet environment, mean “in that sense it is like — thank God we are leaving”.
But there is also some sadness, Mr Malgeri said, because of the spiritual and historic significance of Newman Hall and the fact that for many who went there it was a “home away from home”.
Going to a new location is exciting, but difficult, he added. “I love the challenge of re-building, so when I heard we were moving, my initial reaction was excitement.”
Fellow tertiary lay chaplain Shana Llorando echoed Mr Malgeri’s thoughts. “It is real sad to see it go, but I’m actually excited more so, to start in a new place, especially this being my first year working here, it is like building from the ground up in a way,” she said.
At the bishop’s forum, Bishop Dunn said that the Symonds St premises is “not ideal” because of the distance from the main campus, so “we are really looking to try to find a venue closer to the University clock tower, Albert Park”.
“One place that we are really quite interested in is the old synagogue on the corner of Princes St and Bowen Ave,” Bishop Dunn said, adding that discussions have also been had with Presbyterians about premises near St Andrew’s church on Symonds St.
Fr Denham said one difficulty with any building close to the university is the likelihood of existing tenancies that would extend to years, not months.
“[But] we would like to [have] a permanent home close to the heart of the university and the diocese is looking to see what might be possible in that regard,” Fr Denham said.
Also moving from Newman Hall will be the diocesan library which will return in part to the Pompallier Diocesan Centre.