Some parishes urged to seek alternative venues for Mass

News Cecily McNeill4 April 2012 Pastoral areas are being urged to identify alternative centres for worship in the midst of a major archdiocesan assessment of parish and school buildings for…


Cecily McNeill
4 April 2012

Pastoral areas are being urged to identify alternative centres for worship in the midst of a major archdiocesan assessment of parish and school buildings for earthquake risk.

Parishes and schools are also facing increases of some 80 percent in insurance premiums – $380,000 a year to $680,000 a year – slightly less than the total amount parishes pay lay employees such as secretaries, youth ministers and pastoral leaders.  The rise comes as insurers and reinsurers assess costs following the Christchurch earthquakes.

In the past month (March 2012) archdiocesan general manager Paul Bayliss has led a team of advisers around pastoral areas to inform them of the changes and to reassure parishes that they are not alone, that this affects the entire diocese.

The insurance increase is on top of a combined parish deficit to the archdiocese last year of $738,000. This means that, with the insurance rise, parishes are in deficit by more than $1m and it would take $65 extra from each parishioner in the archdiocese to pay off the deficit.

For example, parishioners at St James Presbyterian church in Newtown were last year delivered an ‘eye-popping’ rise in insurance premium from $4,000 to $20,000 because of the church’s earthquake risk. The Dominion Post reported on November 18, 2011 the parish’s treasurer saying that the decision to close came after a notice from the council about the church’s earthquake risk and the increase in insurance.

Faced with similar insurance rises and knowing that other institutions have been forced to close buildings – Wellington East Girls College and Newtown Primary School for example – the archdiocese began a survey of 181 parish and diocesan buildings while Catholic Schools Board Limited (CSBL) undertook a review of the 252 school buildings in the archdiocese.

With 32 buildings assessed so far, evidence has emerged of major work needed on some 28 of them.

A one-off subsidy from the Archdiocesan Board of Administration will help parishes to pay their insurance premiums for this year giving them time to decide what to do about earthquake-prone buildings. 

Parishes are being urged to pay the premium by the due date of April 20 or, if this is not possible, to contact Trish McAuliffe or 04 496 1758.

An initial assessment has found that only a fifth of parish buildings have no or low risk factors. These buildings would be assessed only when planning to renovate. The remaining four-fifths have risk factors.

Schools are better off with a fifth needing assessment in the short to medium term and 80 percent requiring assessment for earthquake risk only when renovation is planned. CSBL has banned new building work while it pays for seismic strengthening of existing schools.

Parishes concerned about finding alternative spaces for worship, administration and pastoral work are asked to discuss this with other parishes in the pastoral area and schools or contact the administration team’s David Mullin or 04 496 1773. See

Graphs: Top left: Timetable for initial evaluation (IEP) and detailed assessments (DA) with costings
Right: Timetable for IEP and DA with costings
Above: Number of buildings by category with category 1 being the most seriously under the building code.