Controversial building to bring ‘new energy’ to church

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Artist’s impression: The historic St Patrick’s Church, in Arrowtown, beside architect Fred van Brandenburg’s 'Olive Leaf'

Consent’s been lodged for a controversial building to be built next to Arrowtown’s historic St Patrick’s Church.

The Olive Leaf Centre Trust proposed for the project to be funded entirely by donation.

Should consent be granted, no work would begin until all funds were in place.

Architect Fred van Brandenburg first mooted the Olive Leaf project in 2015.

Last year, he formally announced plans for the building which would serve primarily as a church hall, and would also include the “Mary MacKillop space”, the “Reflections room”, a chapel and a Wall of Remembrance, all on the lower level.

It is also proposed a crypt be established in conjunction with the remembrance wall, which could contain ashes.

Visitor accommodation was also proposed on the lower level, with a private entrance from Merioneth St.

The primary use of the three bedrooms was for visiting clergy and possibly an on-site caretaker.

“However, when not required for either, the accommodation may be available as visitor accommodation for which a nightly fee would be charged,” the application said.

“The visitor accommodation does offer an opportunity to raise funds for the ongoing management of the entire site, which includes two historic buildings.”

The site, on the corner of Hertford and Merioneth Sts, is owned by the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Dunedin.

The Olive Leaf Centre trustees are Colin Bellett, Barbara Wilkens, Angela Maxwell-McRae, Kevin Conaghan and Van Brandenburg.

Bellett said there had been “extensive efforts” since December 2015 to consult  parishioners and the community on the project.

It had the “enthusiastic support” of Bishop Colin Campbell and parish priest Father Jamie Lalaguna.

Queenstown’s council has not yet determined if the application will be publicly notified.

Van Brandenburg’s architect statement said, from eye level, the structure would have “minimal visual impact” because the building would be sunk 2.2m below the church building level.

The only portion protruding above the ground would be the stone-clad roof.

Other than a mandatory requirement to strengthen the almost 150-year-old church to bring it up to earthquake code, there were no plans to alter it in any way.

Van Brandenburg said the church needed to “remain alive” and could not be a “static edifice” with an ageing and dwindling congregation.

“The Olive Leaf will bring youth and vitality to St Patrick’s Church and a new wave of energy to the parish, attracting and welcoming a diversity of residents and visitors from all walks of life.”

The project had met opposition. Some believed the modern design of the Olive Leaf was not in keeping with the historic design of the church, nor district plan requirements for new buildings within Arrowtown’s historic zone.

Van Brandenburg disagreed.

“To those who continue to argue that this site requires a heritage-style building, my response is that we are now in a different period in history and the contrast in design will accentuate the difference between the ages.

“I do not believe it is proper to mimic historic buildings and confuse the onlookers as to which is a heritage building and which is not.”

Church neighbour Wayne Hulls formed the “NOLEAF Group” last year which aimed to encourage as many people as possible to submit against the leaf-shaped building.

Otago Daily Times