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Church Rejects 11th Hour Bid To Save Euphrasie

A late bid to save landmark Hamilton East building Euphrasie House has been rejected by the Catholic Church, which bought the building in 2012.

The Hamilton East Community Trust (HECT) is still fighting to keep the pre-World War II Spanish mission-style convent standing, despite the church diocese gaining consent to demolish the 74-year-old building. The diocese says it cannot afford earthquake upgrading that the building needs, and wants to demolish it and instead build a two-storey diocesan centre on the site.

The trust has appealed the consent decision to the Environment Court.

Its proposal to the diocese to save the iconic building, including costings for strengthening, extension and refurbishment, put the likely bill at $4.1m.

Diocese working party member Peter Egan said the proposal wouldn't work.

"What was proposed doesn't meet our requirements, on both a cost basis and the future type of building we require for our staff. We can't make it work. We'll explain the difference in cost at the Environment Court. There's no point in us barking in the press backwards and forwards," he said.

Mr Egan said the church's preference was for HECT's appeal to be dropped. "They haven't moved their position at all. We believe the professionals that we have engaged have done an excellent job, and it's the best thing for the city.

"They were putting up a different system altogether, and they would not give us a definite percentage in terms of the earthquake safety.

"All they would say is it would reduce the earthquake risk by 70 per cent.

"What's disappointing to us is that no emphasis has been given to what the church intends to put there. No recognition has been given to the style of the new building; everyone has ignored that. It's been all one way," he said.

The church also intended to spend a considerable sum to strengthen and save a chapel alongside the former convent, without public recognition.

Mr Egan said the church's plans and the HECT proposal had been compared on cost by diocese experts "and they were as different as chalk and cheese".

He would not say what the difference was because "it's not apples and apples. We'll give that detail to the court. It's a complex question; it's just not easy.

"We haven't brushed [the HECT proposal] aside; certainly not."

But Holmes Consulting Group structural engineer Alan Park, who worked on the HECT proposal and specialises in base isolating for earthquake protection, said the proposal was robust and the church simply wanted a new building.

"We didn't give a percentage of building code because it doesn't really apply. Through design, we can eliminate the forces the building would endure in an earthquake. It's proven technology; we're experts in this field. It's always hard to explain to lay persons, and that's probably where we lost them," he said.

Holmes Group had used base isolation to protect Parliament and Te Papa.

The cost of the technology had fallen and would have allowed the convent to be retained and extended.

"I just don't think that ultimately, the church's heart is in it," Mr Park said.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/9025087/Church-rejects-11th-hour-bid-to-save-Euphrasie Fairfax NZ News