3 Oct 2015

'National treasure' closes for strengthening

2:12 pm on 3 October 2015

St Mary's Cathedral in New Plymouth is to be closed for earthquake strengthening.

St Mary's Cathedral

St Mary's Cathedral Photo: Supplied

Taranaki Anglican Trust Board said it has made the decision for safety reasons following an engineer's report and after consulting with the parish.

Bishop of Taranaki, Archbishop Philip Richardson, said although the temporary closure was expected it was still a sad day.

"The trustees have taken enormous care in this decision and considered all options but the beautiful building is seriously compromised and we should not use it or allow others to use it," he said.

Archbishop Richardson said the cathedral only met 15 percent of the new building standard and further engineering reports would be required before it was known how much it would cost to make safe.

"The diocesan policy is that such buildings are closed for safety reasons."

St Mary's Cathedral

St Mary's Cathedral at night. Photo: Supplied

It would be years before the cathedral was reopened and its reopening would be dependent on the extent of work required and the church's fundraising options, he said.

The cathedral opened in 1846 and is the oldest stone church in New Zealand.

"The Cathedral has significance for Taranaki and the history of Aotearoa New Zealand," Archbishop Richardson said.

"It is a national treasure with elements of Taranaki history and national history. It stands at the interface of Maori and Pakeha relationships and has been a place to reconcile that history, and so it speaks of our past and for our future."

St Mary's Cathedral

An inside view of St Mary's Cathedral Photo: Supplied

Cathedral Dean Jamie Allen said the ministry would continue as much as possible during the cathedral's closure and it would need to be creative to do so.

"I am sure Taranaki people will be able to meet the challenge with an interim worship space. We are also determined that the support the cathedral is privileged to offer to our community - for example, counselling and the community cafe - will continue unaffected," he said.

Dean Allen said everyone had felt deep sadness, anger and denial over the closure but were now working together and looking to the future.

"This taonga was gifted to us; we didn't build it, however it is our responsibility to do everything we can to make this building stronger for generations to come," he said.

Public access to the cathedral ends on Monday but specific services will continue until the end of January.