Church Sale Fail As Locals Hail Gail

Posted by on Oct 27, 2011 | 10 Comments

Claudia Page of Devonport Heritage and Gail Lyons and Lyndsay Brock avail themselves of the facts and disrupt the Church sale. They provide us with the latest on the status of  St Paul’s.

Church sale fail

We have been doing more digging on the background to the church and have uncovered documents at Takapuna Library which support our view that much more needs to be established before the church and graveyard can be disposed of.

By looking up the gazette notice of 1891 which formally closed the graveyard, and adding up the acreage of the three allotments administered by the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches, it is clear that the land the church and hall have been built are in fact part of the closed graveyard as described in the closure notice. The Burials and Cremations Act prohibits the sale of such land.

Under the Burials & Cremations Act 1964, Section 43, a closed cemetery ’shall not be sold or leased or otherwise disposed of or diverted to any other purpose’.

Rule 6.4 states that ‘a licensee must not mislead a customer or client…..nor withhold information that should by law or fairness be provided to a customer or client‘. Rule 9.3 may also apply as it deals with taking advantage of prospective clients or customers, and it is apparent that potential buyers may not have the ability to understand relevant planning data or the law relating to closed cemeteries.

Devonport Heritage understands that the auction has been delayed for an unspecified time.

We note that after writing to the Harcourts agency, the error of the wrong architect in the listing has been corrected. We are still concerned that they are suggesting the church may become a “heavenly home”, as this would be difficult, given that the interior of the building is scheduled. The advertised alternative of function centre is not a permitted use under the residential zoning, so a resource consent would have to be sought for that to be possible.

Devonport Heritage will be approaching LINZ with a request that they urgently investigate the historical title, to find whether any accidental errors with regard to the title can be found. Our research shows that the title dated 1891 , was issued” in lieu of a Crown Grant”. Under the land Transfer Act, if a certificate of title is issued in lieu of a grant, it has the effect and force of a Crown Grant. If there is no evidence that the purpose of the original grant of burial grounds was removed, then the land could not be used for another purpose without an order from the Crown.

We are urging the Presbyterian Church to investigate fully and collaboratively with all groups and individuals who have an interest and knowledge of the church.


  1. Sherri says:

    Absolutely correct Lyndsay. When we began restoring the graves, Gail and I found masses of smashed headstones in the “fill” around both the church and the halls. Putting them back together (it was similiar to having several peices of different jigsaw puzzles all mixed u together)was one of the most profoundly satisfying things I have ever done– although I, as was Gail and Jerry (the wonderful expert on grave restoration) angry and bewildered that anyone, let alone good church folk, could descerate graves in such a cavalier way. Having said that, I have always maintained that the church and the halls were built over actual burial sites. This was borne out by a wonderful komatua and others who cleansed and blessed the property not long after I arrived at St Pauls. Perhaps this example of ongoing disrespect is why things have gone so wrong for St Paul’s. For Gail, Jerry and myself one of the most heartbreaking things was to discover broken peices of little headstones that, when we put them back together, revealed themselves to be headstones of babies and little children. Restored, some of those fragments now form five little memorial headstones stand together at the bush line in full view of the road. We did’nt know where their little graves were and could’nt put them back where they belong. Those little children’s headstones, and all the others we restored and resurrected, definately predate the present church/halls. A walk around the cemetary will now tell it’s own tale in ways it would not prior to the restoration work which began in 2006. I am absolutely certain that the legality of the sale of any aspect of the property is very suspect under these circumstances. It will take years to seperate the titles and to say there will be any sale/aution of the buildings is fantasy this point in the process. In the meantime, the powers that be in the PCANZ will perform a ceremony to deconsecrate the church which will therefore enable it to be used for any purpose regardless if its sold or not.

  2. Lyndsay says:

    Re the agents email to GB about the category A protection & her statement that St Pauls is not listed with the historic places trust…..Well, don’t speak too soon Ilse, because the cemetary closed before 1900, which means it qualifies as an archeological site and, by law, definitely falls under the protection of the Trust.
    And here things get veeeerrry interesting – People may not know that the cemetary pre-dates the church, or that the whole of the land area was given as a burial ground.
    There are photo’s in the Devonport Museum of the church under construction & they show a number of gravestones which have since been removed…..this is very clear evidence that the graveyard actually extends well beyond the currently visible area, and it’s quite likely there are human remains under the building. If this is the case, a much bigger area than expected will qualify for legal protection.

  3. GB says:

    E-mail reply below from the agent handling the church sale:
    Thank you for your interest. Yes, I am fully cognisant of the fact that the Church is a Category A listed building under the District Plan of the Resource Management Act 1991. It is not protected under the Historic Places Act. The local heritage group are fully aware of this also and I have been in communication with them already.

    Kind regards,
    Ilse Evans (Harcourts, Takapuna)

    ..Bill, there are people like myself doing their bit, quietly, behind the scenes in finding out stuff.

  4. ruth says:

    Hail Gail!
    et al

    Clever detective work! looks like the church cant seem to get it together – and now they have all those costs – and no congregation – to keep it functioning.

    Power to the people!

  5. Sherri says:

    Fantastic…well done to all who worked so hard to stop the sale of the graveyard. I understand the graveyard site is being placed under council control?? It would be great to see another spiritual community buy the church and use it for the purpose for which it was built.

  6. Christine says:

    We thank all who worked hard to bring us the true facts. Now my ancestors can continue to rest peacefully.

  7. MO says:

    THank God (pun intended) for people like Claudia, Gail and Lyndsay !!!

  8. Bill Rayner says:

    VPE has a very good point. Why is it always left to the community heritage enthusiasts like Claudia, Gail and Lyndsay to have to continually battle against Council and professional slackness in so many of these situations.

    The lure of attractive commissions and fees should not detract from the fundamental responsibilty of the real estate and legal professions to do the core research properly and present any property for sale with a clear, factual and honest outline of all key facts, good and bad, including heritage protection and limitation issues. Too often marketing hype and puffery over ride and misrepresent the true situation of a property to potential clients to get them through the door.

    It would save a lot of time,money, and aggro if the professionals did their job properly in the first place.
    St.Paul’s is an unusual situation that highlights the issue.. How could any professional not foresee a problem in selling a graveyard. I know Harcourt’s are Australian but like VPE I really wonder sometimes.

  9. al says:

    who was the real estate agent and agency ?

  10. VPE says:

    Personally I would have no issue at all with a 100 or 1000 year lease to the church being issued to whoever, for whatever purpose, given that the buildings’ original function is no longer tenable.
    Heritage scheduling would not necessarily block a substantial internal refit, providing all scheduled features remained intact- even if concealed. The scheduled concrete urinals at Auckland Museum are still in place- hidden directly behind the new chrome ones.
    However, I do not understand how what appears to be an (apparently unwitting) attempt at an illegal sale of the land and cemetery ever got to this point. This suggests that basically every party involved has screwed up- either through shoddy research or negligence. How the hell do specialist conveyance lawyers misread the terms of a property title? Staggering really.

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