Sunday, January 29, 2012

Churches now uninsured

Timaru's Presbyterian and Catholic churches are without earthquake insurance. 

While the date looms for the demolition of Temuka's Trinity Presbyterian Church, the dilemma continues for others.

The Catholic church has been told no earthquake coverage is available, while the Presbyterian church is hopeful of a solution.

Timaru Presbyterian Parish closed Chalmers Church and St Pauls in November after unease grew about worshippers' safety during an earthquake. 

Although engineers have cleared Chalmers for use, the building is still considered earthquake-prone and will need strengthening.

The parish had been quoted $57,000 for full insurance cover this year, up from $20,000 in the past 12 months.

Ansvar, the company that insured the churches, cancelled its policies at the end of last month. 

It faces $700 million in claims from the Christchurch earthquakes and elected not to renew earthquake policies.

Timaru Presbyterian Parish clerk Ken Falconer said he understood all parishes throughout New Zealand were in a similar situation.

"The cost is quite prohibitive; we've got to look at the overall picture and make the right decision."

Mr Falconer said Timaru's four Presbyterian congregations would consult with each other over the next couple of months and hope for no more quakes.

Presbyterian insurance group secretary Douglas Langford confirmed most churches in New Zealand were not covered for earthquake damage. He was not sure which parishes could or couldn't afford earthquake cover.

"We're going through the process of which parishes want it. Those parishes that want the facility will have it." 

He said the bulk of churches would have earthquake cover within two months.

Catholic Diocese of Christchurch financial administrator Paddy Beban said the market was not prepared to give the church earthquake insurance.

"Our broker has been working with insurance companies; you can only take what the market is prepared to give. We're not sitting on our hands." 

St Mary's in Timaru sustained considerable damage during the quakes when one of the church tower pinnacles fell and movement was recorded on the east side of the building.

Restoration fund chairman Ray Bennett said the church would likely receive an earthquake assessment at the end of this month.

Anglican Church spokesman Lloyd Ashton confirmed all the parishes were covered for earthquake damage.

"Replacement earthquake cover was confirmed before the end of last year."

Meanwhile, Temuka's Trinity Presbyterian Church will likely be demolished next month as contractors sort through the resource consent.