13 Aug 2010

Bid to keep marble altar in Oamaru

4:15 pm on 13 August 2010

Holy orders and court orders are on the agenda at a public meeting in Oamaru on Friday night.

It is the latest stage in a dispute over the future of a 90-year-old marble altar.

The carved altar is in a chapel that's for sale. Nuns from the Dominican Order want it removed and sent to a parish in Dunedin, but townsfolk insist it must stay where it is.

The Teschemakers complex just south of Oamaru has been a Catholic girls' boarding school, a retreat run by the Dominican sisters.

But the 29 hectare property, the original homestead, dormitory block, classrooms, chapel and swimming pool are now on the market.

The Dominican sisters gifted the ornate altar to a Catholic church in Dunedin - a move they had hoped would save it from destruction.

However, townspeople on Monday went to the chapel and refused to allow stonemasons to remove the altar. They also obtained an interim Environment Court injunction to stop the work.

Technically, the altar belongs to the Holy Name parish in Dunedin. The injunction applies to the church and a stonemason company contracted by the church.

The court order instructs the church to apply for resource consent through the Waitaki District Council before going ahead with the removal of the altar.

At least 100 people are expected to attend the meeting on Friday night to discuss ways to ensure that does not happen at all.