Church afterlife

Church afterlife

Total Property - Issue 1 2017

The commercial property sector is providing New Zealand’s failing churches with an afterlife - as developers seek to convert them into bars and restaurants.

Many older churches are being put on the market for sale as congregations shrink, demographics change and the cost of maintaining and strengthening these ageing buildings spirals. However, their desirable locations and architectural and historical charms can make them attractive real estate for commercial developers. Here are 5 former New Zealand churches that have found new life as commercial spaces.


Known to locals and tourists as the Pink Church, the property was established as a church in 1878. It was vacated and deconsecrated in 1981 and bought by a developer. Four years later the developer sold it to Gordon and Barbara Campbell, who spent $250,000 renovating the 450m2 church, including painting the outside pink and adding a mezzanine. They set up a craft store on the ground floor, Craft New Zealand, which they then sold in 1992. The Campbells sold the church and the 1,345m2 of freehold land in 2002 to an accountant in New Plymouth for $680,000, with The Cambridge Country Store, and the cafe that operated on the mezzanine above it, staying on as tenants. The Cambridge Country store closed in 2015, after which the Grasslands Lane family trust, which had owed the building for five years, put it on the market for sale. Good George Brewing bought the church earlier this year for $1,030,000 and have transformed it into a pub, dining hall and brewery, repainting the pink exterior white.


Good George Brewery established its flagship brewery in the former St George’s church. The original wooden church was built in the 1960s but burned down in 1971. Although the church was by then in the heart of the growing industrial zone of Frankton, it was rebuilt, but on a smaller scale. By 2000, the Anglican church’s congregation had dwindled to fewer than 20 worshippers, so the decision was made deconsecrate the land and building and sell them on to an affordable housing group. Good George bought the 507m2 building and 1,238m2 for $383,700 in 2011.


The former St Paul’s Presbyterian Church is one of Auckland’s best known and majestic buildings. The building was designed by architects Grierson and Aimer in the Arts and Crafts style and opened in 1916. The first part of the adjacent Church hall (designed by architects Bartlett & Bartlett) was opened in 1956, with the Upper Story following in 1964. By 2011 the congregation was shrinking and upkeep costs were growing, with $300,000 worth of earthquake strengthening alone needed. After a lengthy sales process, the 1,696m2 freehold plot and buildings were sold to New Zealand chess grandmaster Murray Chandler in 2013. The attached cemetery was gifted to North Shore Council. Mr Chandler, who turned the church into a National Chess and Functions Centre, put the property back on the market at the end of last year.


Radio personality Danny Watson turned St Michael and All Angels into a Seido karate school after buying the 350m2 church in 2013 for $875,000. The Anglican church had started life as a Sunday school at Holy Trinity Church in Devonport and was moved to Bayswater Ave in 1910. It was closed in 2011, prompted by falling church numbers and the need for expensive repairs.


The former Hanover Street Baptist Church is one of Dunedin’s architectural gems. The Category 1 listed building was the first Baptist church in Dunedin and was completed in 1912. The congregation moved to another site in 1996 and the church became home to several nightclubs and restaurants, most recently the Monkey Bar. The building’s new owners carried out more than $500,000 worth of refurbishments and have leased it to the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

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