Wellington Catholic landmarks windfall comes with strings

A Wellington developer was reportedly told by a priest that his whole congregation would be praying for him before he faced an Environment Court hearing.

This probably had something to do with Mark Dunajtschik’s proposal to give $5 million each for the restorations of St Mary of the Angels and St Gerard’s Monastery.

The offer from the developer was outlined at the Environment Court in Wellington on August 19.

But it was dependent on him getting resource consent to demolish the eight-storey Harcourt’s building in Lambton Quay, which is heritage listed.

Mr Dunajtschik said he had made verbal commitments about the restoration funding to former MP Gordon Copeland regarding St Gerard’s and to Fr Barry Scannell, SM, of St Mary of the Angels.

He said Fr Scannell had told him his whole congregation would be praying for him.

Environment Court judge Jeff Smith said there were precedents for such offers to be picked up.

But they had to be voluntary and could not be imposed by the court, the judge said.

Wellington City Council had issued notice that the Harcourts building had to be strengthened or demolished by 2027, but when Mr Dunajtschik applied to demolish the building, he was not permitted to do so, the Dominion Post reported.

The legal saga over getting a consent has been before Wellington City Council commissioners, the Environment Court and then the High Court.

The latter ordered the case be re-heard in the Environment Court.

St Mary of the Angels was closed after earthquakes last year, as it only meets 15 to 20 per cent of the building standard in this area.

Earlier this month, the parish launched a fundraising drive to bring the heritage-listed church to 100 per cent of building code.

To begin work, the church needs $3 million, of which it has already raised $2 million.

Patrons include former prime minister Jim Bolger, former governor-general Sir Anand Satyanand, former chief District Court judge Sir David Carruthers, businessman Sir John Todd and chief ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem.

But another $7 million is needed to complete the project.

The church had already spent $500,000 analysing the structure’s weaknesses and planning its restoration, Fr Scannell said.

He said parishioners had been generous, but the fundraising appeal was to “the whole of the Catholic community, and to the city”.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

Tags: , , , ,