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Greytown’s sacred heart up for sale

Despite its border with State Highway 2, it’s serene within the grounds of Sacred Heart Church.

Surrounded by a moat of green grass and a scattering of rose bushes, the little church spire has gazed over the northern end of town since the late 1800s.

But despite its longevity and iconic status, it has now found itself on the market.

Hopes are high, however, that its second life will see it remain in situ on the corner of Kuratawhiti and Main streets.

Designed by notable Wellington architect Thomas Turnbull, Sacred Heart opened on Christmas Day, 1880. It’s been described as a humble colonial nave, featuring Gothic-style stained glass windows and a quatrefoil rose window accent. Three-corbelled brackets highlight a “sweet church spire”.

As the town’s population grew, so did the congregation, and in 1957, Greytown Courthouse was shifted on-site, becoming a transept for additional space and seating.

The parish’s Wairarapa finance committee chair John Bunny says the church’s imminent sale will mark the end of a decade-long process: “That is, we are going from five churches in Wairarapa to two – one in Featherston and one in Masterton.”

Like many religions, Bunny says the Catholic Church is contending with dwindling parishioner and priest numbers, high insurance costs, and significant maintenance and earthquake remediation.

“None of us want to lose our church. It’s a difficult process to go through, and there is no easy way of doing it, but it has to be done.”

Greytown Heritage Trust recently expressed its “deep concern” for the church’s survival, noting it does not have a Heritage New Zealand listing, stating that it “strongly advocates for the retention of the church and its features on site.

“Sacred Heart is a valued component of our streetscape,” the trust said.

LJ Hooker listing agent David McHattie confirms many inquiries about the church have been received for myriad uses and says its potential is huge.

“Imagine if it were a nice art gallery or a cafe. It’s right on the edge of the commercial zoning in Greytown.

“It is a beautiful looking building. Personally, I would love to see it remain there, and if someone were to restore it, that would be great.”

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] says the church is currently zoned residential and comes under the Heritage Precinct in the district plan.

It is also listed as having historic features – meaning only minor repairs and maintenance are permitted without consent.

“Any other activity would require resource consent such as additions, alterations, demolition, relocation, removal, or conversion to commercial or retail activity,” SWDC notes.

Bunny says it’s important to stress that the church’s sale doesn’t mean the buildings will be lost to the community.

“In Carterton, we had several tenders for St Mary’s Church, and we accepted the one where the church would be retained. We hope the same for Greytown.”

Ultimately, he says, the Wellington Archdiocese will have the final say, although the committee will review all tenders and offer its recommendation.

“It’s got wonderful light, and it’s a just place where you feel uplifted. We will be looking at options that keep it in situ.”

    Tenders close on Tuesday, January 31 at 2pm. Buyer inquiry over $700,000.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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