Iconic Wellington monastery to help solve housing crisis

st gerards

Although Wellington icon St Gerard’s church and monastery has been declared earthquake-prone and will close next month, it is unlikely to be pulled down.

While St Gerard’s future is ultimately up to the owners, the church – built in 1908 for the Redemptorists – could be deconsecrated so it could be used for events like weddings and funerals, suggests City Councillor Iona Pannett!

The monastery building – which was was added in 1932 – could also be strengthened and converted to housing, she says.

“Given there is a housing crisis, obviously we want to maximise the space that we have.”

Pannet, who leads the city’s heritage portfolio, says it is “highly unlikely” that St Gerard’s will be demolished.

“I think there would be a public outcry,” she says.

“It’s very hard to demolish a listed heritage building. In that case finding a strengthening solution is really important.

“I love the building, it adds something to Wellington, and the council has supported them [ICPE] but that is not going to be enough,” Pannett says.

She thinks costs to strengthen the buildings will probably go above $13m.

Pannett says Heritage New Zealand’s rules will allow for changes to be made to the building and its inside does not have heritage protection.

Another Wellington city councillor, Nicola Young​ says the buildings are a significant part of Wellington’s landscape.

She wants to see the buildings saved and hopes they can be repurposed into apartments or a hotel.

The big red brick Category 1 heritage building overlooking Oriental Bay has been “yellow-stickered” since the Christchurch earthquakes.

Its last service after 113 years will be held on Pentecost Sunday, May 23. It will be celebrated by the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John Dew​.

From then on, the fate of the quake-prone church and monastery buildings – rated at 25 per cent of the New Zealand building standard – remains unclear.

Its owners, ICPE Mission New Zealand, tried to raise funds to get the buildings up to code but, by July 2020, had only raised $42,000 of the $11 million needed. It is understood the cost is now $13m.

ICPE Mission made the decision to close the buildings in consultation with the Archdiocese of Wellington.

“Both buildings have category 1 Heritage New Zealand ratings. The ICPE Mission has yet to decide their future,” ICPE Mission New Zealand director Silvana Abea says.

She says the Covid-19 pandemic means for the second year running the ICPE’s School of Mission could not take place, with overseas missionaries and students unable to attend.

“At the same time, the reality of a large building that needs serious earthquake strengthening has led the ICPE Mission to rethink our long-term presence in Wellington and look at new ways of being Christ’s presence in the city.”

Historic Places Wellington chairwoman Felicity Wong​ is full of praise for the ICPE.

“The ICPE have looked after that building, and have made it open and welcoming to the people of Wellington.

“The church has a special place in Wellington’s landscape and is an important heritage building,” she says.


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