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Heritage protection granted

Riversdale’s St Joseph’s Church. PHOTOS/FILE

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Two Wairarapa places have received special Heritage New Zealand protection.

Featherston’s World War I War Memorial is now a Category 1 historic place, and Riversdale Beach’s St Joseph’s Church is now a Category 2 historic place.

The 92-year-old war memorial on Fitzherbert St displays the names of 48 local soldiers who died in the war. In 1950, the names of 29 World War II casualties were added.

Heritage New Zealand’s Joanna Barnes-Wylie compiled the report for the nomination to the category. She said Featherston was “uniquely placed” to tell the story of New Zealand’s WW1 history.

A category 1 listing under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act [HNZPT] 2014 means the memorial is of special or outstanding historical or cultural significance or value.

But this top category doesn’t mean the memorial has automatic protection. It means there is some heritage funding available for its protection through the National Heritage Preservation Incentive Fund and local authorities are required to notify HNZPT if a building consent application is received regarding a property on the list.

The fact that a property is included in the list should be noted on any relevant land information memorandum supplied by a local authority.

Featherston’s war memorial.

South Wairarapa District Mayor Alex Beijen said he thought the listing was “great” and cemented the town’s military history as nationally significant.

“It is not onerous for the council to manage this listing and we are working to protect it further by looking at it carefully from an earthquake proof perspective,” Beijen said.

“It is part of the town’s history and central to Anzac Day celebrations. We most certainly treat it as a heritage site and this just lifts it to the top as it should be.”

The memorial’s connection to the Featherston Camp and nearby Tauherenikau Camp is reflected by the river stones set into its columns, roof, and the wall around its garden. Collecting and moving river stones was part of the physical training of camp recruits.

Across the road from the memorial, a new $600,000 sculpture designed by artist Paul Dibble was unveiled in November 2018. It represents the extensive military training carried out in Featherston by New Zealand soldiers involved with WWI.

Featherston’s other category 1 places include the nearby Anzac and Kiwi halls, the military training camp, Tarureka woolshed, Longwood house, and Rototawai homestead.

Riversdale Beach’s St Joseph’s church was built in 1881 and was originally in Tinui. But after a century of church services, baptisms, weddings and funerals, the church’s circumstances changed.

Better roads meant parish-life was centred in Masterton.

But growth in popularity of seaside holiday-spots, such as Riversdale Beach, meant there was still demand for church services.

In 1981, Catholics and Anglicans teamed-up and moved the church 30km south to Riversdale Beach.

“After a slow and careful six-hour trip from Tinui, the church arrived and the spire and porch were reattached at its new home in Riversdale Beach,” HNZPT central region area manager Karen Astwood said.

In the early 2000s, residents formed the St Joseph’s at Riversdale Beach Charitable Trust and had the building restored in 2018.

“Its construction is connected with the very hard-working and far-roaming priest, Father Anthony Halbwachs,” Astwood said. “In 1876 he was tasked with building the Wairarapa parish from scratch, because there were no Catholic churches.”


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