Tauranga’s church may relocate


St Mary Immaculate Church in Tauranga’s CBD is losing its bell tower, and the site may even be sold altogether.

Parish priest Father Mark Field says the bell tower meets only 20 per cent of the modern earthquake code, so it needs to be removed.

The newer part of St Mary’s is continuing to operate as usual.

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.

Field says they are considering selling the existing site on the corner of Cameron Road and Elizabeth Street.

If the parish decides of this course of action, one possibility would be to relocate the church to Pyes Pa Road.

“We have purchased a property next to Aquinas College (a 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 due to complaints from neighbours, says Field.

“So they are a thing of the past.”

A church has stood on the site of St Mary Immaculate Church in central Tauranga since 1871. It has existed in its present form since 1991.

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

St Mary’s is just one of several Catholic churches in the Bay of Plenty that have earthquake issues.

The church in Te Puke meets only 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.


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