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Funds sought for church

St Joseph’s Catholic church in Riversdale, for which it is hoped to raise $75,000 for refurbishments. PHOTO/SUPPLIED


A landmark Riversdale Beach building, more than twice the age of the community it serves, is in line for a much-needed spruce up – if funding can be found.

Built in 1881 in Tinui, St Joseph’s Catholic church didn’t find a home at the Wairarapa holiday hotspot until 100 years later when it was relocated 30km down the road to the coast.

But the historic church has received little attention since it arrived and the time has come for a spruce-up, according to Neil Prichard, one of three trustees on the St Joseph’s at Riversdale Beach Charitable Trust.

Established in 2017 the trust now has the task of raising the $75,000 required to refurbish the 137-year old building.

An $18,000 grant from the Trust House Foundation has got the ball rolling, with Mr Prichard confident that community donations will be able to cover the rest of the cost.

“We are very grateful for the assistance of Trust House, and with the community chipping in we are pretty sure we will get there,” Mr Prichard says.

“Both the grounds and particularly the building are in a neglected state, so it is quite a major refurbishment.”

Although a relatively late addition to the community, the church is as much an established feature of the community as the surf club, golf course and general store, but without the equivalent patronage.

The trust has come to an arrangement with the Catholic Church whereby the community takes over the management and maintenance of the building and its grounds, while the Catholic Church retain ownership.

The idea of moving St Joseph’s from Tinui to Riversdale Beach was put forward by the Anglican vicar, Roger Burt, of the Church of the Good Shepherd, located only a stone’s thrown away in the tiny township.

It was felt that having two churches at Tinui was unnecessary, particularly as St Joseph’s was only used four or five times a year.

On March 25, 1981, with Gray Brothers from Greytown as the contractors, the spire and porch were removed, and the trip between Tinui and Riversdale Beach was completed in six hours.

Its new location, on Pinedale Cres, is on land donated by developer Basil Bodle when he first subdivided the beach in the 1950s.

St Joseph’s was the fifth church established in Wairarapa by Father Anthony Halbwachs, the first resident Catholic priest in Wairarapa.

He also established St Mary’s in Carterton [1878], St Patrick’s in Masterton [1879], the Church of the Sacred Heart in Greytown [1880], and St Teresa’s in Featherston [1881].

Of the five churches, St Joseph’s has undergone the least modification. Earlier this year the trustees applied to Heritage New Zealand to list St Joseph’s as a Category 2 Historic Place. They are still awaiting a decision.

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