Number 8 Network reported last week that the original Gordonton Presbyterian Church is earmarked for demolition. This comes at the same time St Mary’s Church is temporarily closed due to potential risk from earthquakes.
Ross Freeman heads the leadership team at the Oaks Christian Centre. He says:
“SEVERAL YEARS AGO we became aware that the Old church would not meet the current building code/earthquake standard.
An engineering report was eventually commissioned. The engineers noted amongst other things that the floor had minimal fixing and no bracing to piles. The heavy roof, largish windows and the unreinforced clay block walls form a particularly vulnerable combination of weaknesses for earthquake loads. They concluded that ‘This building is one of the most vulnerable we have evaluated.‘
This meant the old Church needed to be either demolished, closed completely (which would make it unusable for anything) or strengthened significantly. Initially we decided to look at strengthening the hundred-year-old building to get it up to minimal building code standards.
After consulting with more engineers, we discovered that the unreinforced clay brick walls could not be strengthened and the roof’s concrete tiles would have to be replaced to make it safe. We would have to put a ‘reinforced cage’ inside the church building to protect people from it collapsing but that would not protect anyone outside the building from its collapse in an earthquake.
The Congregation realised that even with the costly alterations there is no certainty it would stand up in an earthquake or meet possible future building code requirements. Therefore, the congregation very reluctantly decided that it was time for it to be demolished for the safety of the public.
We had begun sometime before this looking at what we could build to cater for our children’s and youth programs – we identified the need of a robust multipurpose space for young people and other groups to meet. We initially thought of building on the opposite side of the new church but when we reached a decision to demolish the old church we decided that it made more sense to build a new building in its place.
Our vision is to build a modern facility that serves the church and the community. We would like to develop spaces to expand our current programs especially amongst children and young people. We are also wanting to build something that is not replicating what is already in the local community.
We envisage that the Gordonton area will see growth as Hamilton continues to move north and already, there are many young families living in the greater Gordonton area. We want a facility which will provide spaces for families, children and young people to run around have fun and play games, a space where craft work can be done and young and old can meet together to study and celebrate.
We have begun the process of seeking planning permission. We have concept plans and are now seeking input on costs, building materials and different ways to achieve our aim of a multipurpose building that meets our requirements. So far we have employed an architect and a number of consultants to give preliminary advice.
For at least two years we have had our preliminary plans in the foyer of the new church and people from the community who attend our various programmes have viewed them – generally very positively. It has been encouraging to get positive support for our project from Gordonton School and our neighbours. Oaks has also had a favourable reception to the development from the Waikato District Council. We are hoping to raise about $700,000 dollars to build such a facility – currently we have about two thirds of the amount we think will be required.
We hope that the community will continue to support this project.”