Dannevirke's beautiful historic St John the Baptist Anglican Church has always been admired by those travelling along High St, now the sight of the church disappearing under a plastic wrap means even more curious stares.

The shrink-wrapping of the church is the first stage in a $400,000 roof replacement and earthquake strengthening project which will save the church from the vagaries of the weather.

The building work to be carried out by Dannevirke company Morris and Bailey will save the building and its interior from the rain.

Leaks have been a huge problem, the Reverend Jo Crosse the vicar of Southern Hawke's Bay has said.

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The current sanctuary and chancel were erected and consecrated in 1935, replacing an 1888 wooden structure, but over the past few years the leaking roof has led to parts of the church interior deteriorating, so the vestry is undertaking a major fundraising effort to pay for the much-needed work.

While at the building is at 34 per cent of the earthquake code and meeting all standards, a ply diaphragm will be installed under the new roof to help with earthquake strengthening in conjunction with the roof replacement.

David Veale, project manager, said ideally the contractors would have liked 12 to 15 weeks of fine weather.

"But with the length of the tendering process it became evident the weather was going to play a significant part and we needed to protect the work with a canopy over the church," he said. "Without the canopy the weather could cause significant damage, so it's a very good insurance policy."

Mr Veale said it was fortunate Morris and Bailey had the expertise required for the work.
"This is not the sort of work any chippie can lay their hands on," he said.

Work is expected to take approximately 12 weeks, with construction depending on what the builders encounter.