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'A' rating a giant leap forward in campaign to save St David's Church

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The organiser of a high-profile national campaign to save St David’s Memorial Church in Khyber Pass Road in Central Auckland says the Independent Hearing Panel’s decision to award the church a rare Category A heritage listing underlines the importance of saving the historic building and restoring it for community uses. The Category A Plan Change provides the highest level of heritage protection in New Zealand.

Over several years the Friends of St David’s Trust has raised more than a million dollars from all over New Zealand, principally through the sale brass quatrefoils -- works of art by key supporter and expatriate artist Max Gimblett. This is a record amount ever fundraised through the sale of art in this country.

During the campaign the imposing brick building was covered in a coat of glittering brass quatrefoils, glinting gold, to help draw attention to the need for community financial support to avert the risk of the building being demolished because of the cost of earthquake strengthening to meet modern standards.

Trust spokesman Paul Baragwanath says the Panel’s decision to grant the building an "A" heritage listing vindicates the efforts of many New Zealanders who have contributed time and money to ensure the preservation of the building. The ruling follows Auckland Council’s recommendation on the Category A.

The Trust is working with the Presbyterian Church, the owners of the building, to develop a model to raise funds and restore the historic place for a range of self- funding community uses.

Mr Baragwanath says the Trust has completed a detailed assessment of the condition of the building and has completed a detailed restoration and business plan.

"In the meantime, we have offered to pay for appropriate security for the building and to install modern fire detection systems as a preliminary precaution. It would be a tragedy to lose this wonderful building just as all the stars are lining up for its restoration and renewed relevance to New Zealanders."

The foundation stone for St David’s was laid on Anzac Day, 1927 on the site of an earlier wooden church. The Soldiers’ Memorial Church as it was referred to, commemorates those who gave their lives in World War One and subsequent wars. The Sappers’ (Royal New Zealand Engineers) memorial chapel forms part of St David’s.

It was designed by Daniel B Patterson, with Horace Massey later designing the chancel of the Kamo Brick and Oamaru stone building. Patterson also designed the

Auckland Central Fire Station and St Stephen’s School in the Bombay Hills. Both Patterson and Massey were notable architects of their time.

St David’s has a long association with the New Zealand army, and in particular with the 29th and 30th New Zealand infantry battalions, its ministers traditionally serving in the army. The church also had a strong association with the Auckland nurses who served in both World Wars.

President of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association, BJ Clark QSM, responds to the Cat A decision:

"101 years since the end of World War One, and 92 years since the dedication of The Soldiers’ Memorial Church, the RSA expresses our full support for the Category A and trust that this building of significance to us and to all New Zealand will now be protected in perpetuity. St David’s has been associated with the New Zealand Army and specifically the RNZE since 1927. It commemorates RNZE losses in both World Wars."

ANZAC 2019 @ St David’s Memorial Church

On ANZAC Eve (24 April) Friends of St David’s Trust will host The Art of Remembrance with Kristin Darragh in the grounds of the Memorial Church. This free, outdoor event will give the New Zealand public an opportunity to see the Category A Historic Heritage Place. The church will also be lit up for visits on ANZAC night (25 April).

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