27 Nov 2019

Heritage Auckland building where 'lovely concerts were held' demolished

7:47 pm on 27 November 2019

Heartbroken supporters of a heritage church building in West Auckland watched as it was demolished today.

A small group of locals gathered outside St Andrews Sunday School Hall in New Lynn and said goodbye to the old building for the last time.

Built in 1928, the church is one of the oldest heritage buildings in the area.

It is listed as a Category B Building by Auckland Council, which means it is a place of significant heritage value.

For Dianne Sisley, the hall on Margan Avenue holds many fond memories for her family.

"My grandad was a church elder so my mother, who's 94 now, she can remember tap-dancing. She was in a tap-dancing troupe when the WWII soldiers were here, they were dancing in their beautiful outfits.

"Many lovely concerts were held here, and dances. And, of course, the bagpipes because 80 percent of New Lynn residents were of Scottish descent."

St Andrews Sunday School Hall in New Lynn - heritage church building in west Auckland being demolished

Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

She said it was a sad day and it was her ancestors who supplied the bricks to build the church.

If her grandfather was here, he would have liked it if the church was used as a homeless shelter, she said.

"My heart is heavy. I'm very sad and I think we really need to put effort into preserving our history more and more because it's being swallowed by apartment blocks."

"I did really well up because I had expected not to see the big pitched roof on the skyline as I walked over the rise from home. It made me happy that I could get one more glimpse of the building," Penny Laybourn from the New Lynn Protection Society said.

Yellow tape was rolled out and orange cones were laid out on a part of Margan Rd.

It was a sad sight for Ms Laybourn, who has been campaigning for five years to save St Andrews Sunday School.

It's currently privately owned and she's been trying to work with the owner to restore the building.

She hopes at the very least, they'll be able to save the bricks of the church from going to the landfill.

St Andrews Sunday School Hall in New Lynn - heritage church building in west Auckland buitl in 1928, demolished in 2019

Photo: RNZ

Former councillor for the ward Ross Clow said Auckand Council departments should have worked together more efficiently to prevent the church from being destroyed.

He said he understood the health and safety element but wished more could have been done.

"You've got a demolition order being issued by one side of council, the compliance people then have to follow that. The heritage people are saying 'hey, slow down, we want to try and save this'."

Auckland Council denies that its heritage unit and its compliance investigations team haven't been talking to each other.

After inspections, it issued a dangerous building notice in late March.

An independent engineering consultancy also confirmed that the church was "immediately dangerous" and at risk of collapse.

The council said all avenues were considered to save the church but demolition was the only safe option.

A council investigation is ongoing into the circumstances of St Andrew Sunday School Hall.

The owner of the building has been contacted.