WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Earthquake response progress

May 2014

Feature

David Mullin

Many parishes are investigating the costs of projects to improve their buildings following the earthquake risk assessment of archdiocesan buildings over the two years to December 2013.

The Project Stronger working group’s main task was the seismic assessment of archdiocesan and parish buildings identified at highest risk in an earthquake. Four other identified task areas were undertaken – insurance, advocacy, communication and remediation.

The burden of insurance premium and remediation costs falls mainly on parishes. Therefore the archdiocese committed significant resources to assessment, advocacy and communication during the life of Project Stronger. This commitment ensured that the response was timely and appropriate to the ongoing task.

Several parishes have applied to the archdiocesan fund, the CDF, for loans to help with part of the cost of the project. To support loans, parishes need to be able to show that they have fundraising activities underway and it has been wonderful to see the success of these activities.

As an example of a community getting behind a project, Taita Parish has raised nearly $50,000 in less than six months, completed detailed designs, obtained building consent, engaged a contractor and begun improvement works on St Michael’s Church.

‘I am very pleased with the incredible support that has been given by the parishioners. The first stage work is complete; the front of the property is clad and painted. Work has now started at the rear of the property including the toilet area. We are hoping that all work is completed by the end of May, depending on the weather,’ parish priest Fr Pat McCullough said.

A small number of assessments are still underway with some parishes finalising detailed assessments on specific building elements or geotech assessments on the soils on which parish buildings stand.

Communities wanting to improve the safety of their buildings face many challenges, one of the greatest being cost. The archdiocese, on behalf of the six diocesan bishops of New Zealand, has made a submission on the proposed amendment to the Building Act before parliament. In it the archdiocese stresses the need for the government to articulate through its own actions that it accepts the balance of safety and economic viability it proposes. Concern is also expressed that the burden of the proposed legislation might fall in the wrong place and that those least able to afford the remedy will be most affected.

St Mary of the Angel’s parish leadership has been updating its parishioners about the cost of remediation for the central city church since it was forced to close after the 17 August 2013 earthquake. This parish and others will still need significant support from parishioners to find the balance of safety and viability.