by PETER OWENS
One of Invercargill’s oldest churches, which is also an Invercargill landmark, remained closed for at least one more week from the end of February after high winds damaged its dome. Invercargill South Pastoral Area parish priest Fr Pat McGettigan said gale-force winds of 150km/h at the end of January damaged the dome of St Mary’s Basilica church. They caused damage to the 115-year-old church, with ribbing from the dome coming off and panels loosened.
“The force of that wind got underneath one of the ribbings of the dome and. . . took a long part of the timber that has been covered with copper plating and it was thrown into our car park and the building next door,” Fr McGettigan said.
“Fortunately, nobody has been hurt because it probably happened in the middle of the night.”
Repair work began at once, but Fr McGettigan believes the church would be closed for several weeks. “The church has been closed as other pieces could fall off.”
Invercargill South Pastoral Area parish secretary Karen Ralston said Masses were transferred to other churches in town. However, she hopes the basilica will soon be re-opened. Fr McGettigan said he did not know the cost of the repair work, but it would be covered by insurance.
Completed in 1905 to the design of the prominent late Victorian architect F.W. Petre of Dunedin, St Mary’s Basilica is one of Invercargill city’s landmarks. The building is listed as a Category 1 historic place on Heritage New Zealand’s list.
The loosened panels were fastened with brass nails by Kevin Godfrey, of Permacoat Roofing Southland, a few days after the winds.
Mr Godfrey was able to do the fastening during an inspection of the church’s exterior. He did the inspection and repair work from a crane bucket. “We needed to fasten them [the panels] . . . we were worried the wind could have got under them,” he said.
Scaffolding has been erected around the dome and roofing specialists are arranging to install a new rib on the dome, as well as other maintenance work.