SID Carter shows off the inside of the iconic Raukokore Church, frequently photographed by tourists. Photos supplied
  • Piece of history at risk

THE iconic Raukokore Anglican Church is in danger of sustaining permanent damage if repairs are not done soon.

The Anglican Church of Raukokore Restoration and Preservation Trust is looking to ensure the building stays in good shape and is raising funds towards the work.

At 125 years old, the church is a category 1 historic building, and last had any significant repairs in 1993.

Trust chairman Sid Carter said now was the time to act, or the building could fall beyond repair.

“The trust is trying to save it,” he said.

“We’re on the cusp of not being able to repair it.”

Mr Carter said rot and rust were some of the key issues. He showed Opotiki News areas of the church where weatherboards had rotted, rusted nails showing through paint, and large patches of rust on the roof and metal portions of supports.

In areas around the church, duct tape has been used to weather-proof windows and weatherboards, but Mr Carter said this was far from an effective solution.

“It’s in poor shape, the whole thing will fall down if it’s not fixed,” he said.

Mr Carter said as a category 1 historic building, the church would have to be assessed by OPUS engineering advisers before any work was done.

According to Heritage New Zealand, this means the building is of “special or outstanding historical or cultural significance or value”.

Mr Carter said the category 1 status also meant all materials replaced had to be the same, using the kauri weatherboards as an example.

“You can’t just slap normal weatherboards on,” he said.

Once the assessment – which has been fully funded by the Phillip Verry Charitable Foundation – is complete, Mr Carter said the trust would receive a report and could begin the restoration process.

WSP New Zealand/OPUS, an engineering professional services consulting firm, will carry out the assessment.

“OPUS will tell us what needs to be done and estimates of the cost to complete,” he said.

“We expect a draft report on or before the 18th December 2019 and the final report mid-February next year.”

Fellow trust member and Reverend Arihia Callaghan said she and other members of the trust regarded the church as an important piece of history, and well worth saving.

“Members recognise the historical heritage and importance of the church and its contribution to all New Zealand and are now seriously raising funds for the work,” she said.

“They also recognise that it must be kept open for the purpose it was built for, to bring glory to God.”

To follow progress or make a contribution to the ongoing work, visit the Anglican Church of Raukokore Restoration and Preservation Trust page on Facebook, or the page of the same name on Givealittle.

A landmark on the Coast since 1890s

The Raukokore Anglican Church was designed in the early 1890s by architect and builder Duncan Stirling, who was married to Chiefteness Mihikotukutuku – daughter of Maaka Te Ehutu and Ruiha Rahuta of the Te Whanau a Apanui Iwi – with work beginning and carried out in 1894 by the Savage Brothers of Opotiki.

Celebrating the church’s centenary in 1994, the year before was the last time any significant repairs were made.

“This church is certainly a landmark that is both striking and picturesque,” trust member and Reverend Arihia Callaghan said.

“But because of its position near the sea and extreme exposure to the salt winds and storms, this over 100-year-old church has demanded constant maintenance and restoration.”

The work became necessary due to general wear and tear, as well as the Wahine storm of 1968, which caused the church to take on a “distinct” easterly lean.

While the lean was corrected by a band of farmers and their tractors, and the church’s “uprightness” reinforced with beams in 1983, damage persisted until a rainy Sunday in the early 1990s.

Mrs Callaghan said Reverend Manu Davis decided enough was enough that day when water began to pour through the roof on to his service book.

“What are you going to do about your church Sonny Callaghan, it is an absolute disgrace to you and to God,” he said at the time to the owner of the church.

“That challenge was followed up immediately with the Mantle of the Restoration being put upon Sonny’s shoulders by the Te Kaha rohe, which is the governing body of all our churches throughout Te Whanau a Apanui,” Mrs Callaghan said.

Mrs Callaghan said the church had damage to the roof, paint, cladding and various structural aspects, including roof tiles being swept off in storms.

She said the restoration began with four members of the church, who met regularly at the church and prayed for clear vision and direction.

“They realised that the restoration was definitely past voluntary assistance and professional attention was the only solution,” she said.

With $2 in the restoration fund, Mrs Callaghan said the group also knew that a lot of money had to be found.

In 1993, work by Albie Lewis and Awhi Pirihi of Opotiki commenced, including a new roof, new cladding, a new altar window and fresh paint inside and out.

In September of that same year, Reverend Whakahuihui Vercoe held a rededication service at the restored church.

In an effort to future-proof the church’s damaged roof, the tiles were also replaced by corrugated iron.

Mrs Callaghan said the works cost $43,000, which would equal about $72,349.03 today after accounting for inflation, all fundraised by members of the church.

This restoration was just in time for the church’s centenary, which was commemorated the following year in 1994.

The commemorative service was conducted by Bishop Brown Turei, Reverend Barry Ingham and eight ministers from Te Whanau a Apanui and Torere.

The service attracted more than 300 attendees from across New Zealand, with the church featured in “pristine condition”.

August 2001, seven years later, saw three pines felled from their place next to the church, planted in honour of three founding families of the church.

The commemorative trees had to be felled due to branches causing continuous damage to the roof of the church.

Since then, the church has
continued to serve as a landmark to New Zealanders and those
well beyond.

“Tourists from all over the world have visited and have always contributed generously to any projects that the church might have been engaged in,” Mrs Callaghan said.

“The beauty of the church also draws weddings galore.”

Mrs Callaghan said the church had hosted weddings of couples from a variety of countries, including Japan, the United States of America, the Marshall Islands, Scotland, Thailand and Australia.

“Down through the ensuing years, this church has had so many people contributing and supporting in different ways,” she said.

Mrs Callaghan retold the story of a Canadian cyclist she had met one year, inviting him to set up his tent on her property instead of the open road.

She said the cyclist had been amazed upon seeing the church on his ride, as it was the same church on his calendar at home.

Mrs Callaghan said the cyclist had ridden his way back to Waihau Bay just to purchase film for his camera to show his friends in Canada.

“The stories of loving input just go on and on.”

Lovingly built by tipuna hands

Poem by Len Dain:

LOVINGLY built by our tipuna’s hands
A century on our church proudly stands
On its rocky point overlooking the bay
As serene and regal as it was the first day

Refurnished, refurbished, now stronger still
To serve the parishioners through good times and ill
For though we live our lives then pass on our way
This humble building has been put here to stay

It’s seen people come throughout the years
To celebrate joy, to shed their tears
It’s seen history change from old to new
But it’s whanau still come their faith to renew

A solid bastion against life’s odds
A challenge in itself against false gods
A place to worship, to uplift our souls
A place to repent, to review life’s goals

To learn the gospel just as Jesus taught
To better ourselves in deed and in thought
This Church of Christ is a place of love
Joyfully… our beliefs and our church go hand in glove

There is no division here in colour or creed
We all worship here when we feel the need
In this humble church we kneel and pray
And give thanks to him for the past and today

A century is past… but a century on
They will still count their blessings in prayer and song
In this simple place that we all love
Our symbol of trust in the good Lord above.

james.sandbrook@opotikinews.co.nz