Church considers moving from CBD

St Mary’s Immaculate Church parish priest Father Mark Field surveys the old bell tower before work begins on demolition.

A church in Tauranga’s CBD is losing its bell tower, and the prominent site may even be sold altogether.

Saint Mary Immaculate Church, on the corner of Cameron Road and Elizabeth Street, will be a construction site over the next month as contractors work to pull down the bell tower.

Father Mark Field says the bell tower only meets 20 per cent of the modern earthquake code, so it needs to be removed. It is one of several Catholic churches in the area that have earthquake issues.

The church in Te Puke only meets 15 per cent of the code and has been closed, while the towers at Te Puna and Matakana churches “probably have problems”, mainly because of the weight of the bells.

Father Mark says the diocese requires all of its churches across New Zealand, built before 1970, to be checked for structural integrity.

The newer part of St Mary’s is continuing to operate as usual, but the old section with the bell tower has been fenced off since the report came in. Work on removing the structure will take place over the next month.

Father Mark says they are considering selling the prime site and moving the church to Pyes Pa Road. There is limited parking at present, and there are other benefits to moving location.

“We have purchased a property next to Aquinas College (Catholic co-ed college), which would be ideal,” he says. “But no decision has been made yet.”

He says if they did move the church, they can incorporate the old bell into the new building.

Bell towers were not common on new church buildings as they often did not get past the resource consent stage because of complaints from neighbours, says Father Mark.

“So they are a thing of the past”.

It was also expensive to repair old towers that were not structurally sound. In the case of the Te Puna and Matakana churches, it might be a case of removing the heavy bells from the towers, he says.

At St Mary’s Immaculate, the tower had been constructed with a brick interior covered with concrete in the centre of the building, making it a complicated demolition job and not a simple case of toppling it.

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Not very welcoming

Posted on 03-03-2019 20:03 | By michelem

What happens when tourists and visitors come to Tauranga and want to go to Mass? If schlepping out to Pyes Pa is the only option it’s not very welcoming or practical for them. What about a small chapel on the site of St Mary’s? At least to keep a presence alive.