WelCom September 2017: Parishioners at St Andrew’s Church Newlands were notified at Mass on 25 June their church would be closed indefinitely the following day. A statement read out said, ‘There is danger from wet and slippery floors…and a general dampness which can affect the health of parishioners.’ The notice said that a building and maintenance report had identified the church as a risk to the public and that Masses would be transferred to Johnsonville until further notice.
St Andrews was amalgamated with Ss Peter’s and Paul’s in Johnsonville and St Benedict’s in Khandallah in February last year to form St Francis of Assisi Ohariu Parish.
In July the Parish Finance Committee report confirmed building issues with all three parish churches and properties with $1.2m needed for maintenance and repairs. Parishioners were invited to propose options to the committee and to parish priest Fr Peter Fitzgibbon by 15 August 2017.
St Andrew’s parishioners of many years have been involved in plans to keep their church going. They expected to be consulted and given the opportunity to help with repairs prior to their church’s closure. They have a strong desire to return to Mass at St Andrew’s.
WelCom spoke to Fr Peter Fitzgibbon about St Andrew’s Church.
Q: Why was the decision made to close St Andrew’s Church?
A Health & Safety risk had been identified at two previous PPC meetings. A building report stated the building is a risk to the public. The Newlands Roof Committee presented me a plan to manage the hazard. This plan proved to be inadequate. Consequently notices were posted and statements read at all Masses.
Q: Why was the decision sudden?
Regretfully, there was no time to extend consultation beyond the Parish Council. I observed 36 separate leaks on the Friday before the closure. Mopping up and towels had to be laid out before every Mass. It was no fit place for Mass.
Q: What was the decision process?
Steady deterioration has been an issue for some time and discussed at the previous two Pastoral Council meetings, and Health & Safety regulations for a public building must be complied with.
Q: Who commissioned the maintenance report?
The Finance Committee.
Q. When will St Andrew’s reopen?
The building report was summarised at all Parish Masses. It is a question of vision taking into account the costs involved, including ongoing operational costs and resources. The Finance Committee will draft a plan from feedback to address the way forward.
Q: Is there a timeline in place for St Andrew’s Church reopening?
A: If and when St Andrew’s is reopened will be part of the planning process going forward.