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Marriage of old and new: Carterton’s history under one roof

By Chelsea Boyle

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For Joseph Gillard, restoring the Carterton Courthouse to its former glory became a passion project.

A century ago, the courthouse was where criminal matters were resolved. It was also the building in which people became New Zealand citizens and, when the time came, voted in elections.

“It was an important place in its day,” Mr Gillard said.

The main room in the courthouse is currently under construction. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE
The main room in the courthouse is currently under construction. PHOTOS/CHELSEA BOYLE

With 40 years experience renovating houses under his belt, Mr Gillard was keen to take on the project.

“This doesn’t present any challenge. I love doing this.”

The fate of the courthouse was not always certain, with demolition a real possibility.

In 2013, the Carterton District Historical Society — Mr Gillard included — put forward a submission to the district council to save the building, and a memorandum of understanding was struck.

“It’s been here since 1884,” Mr Gillard said.

“This is where it belongs.”

As the result of public interest in the building, the Friends of the Carterton Community Courthouse was formed.

Joseph Gillard inside the main room of the courthouse. PHOTOS/CHELSEA BOYLE
Joseph Gillard inside the main room of the courthouse. PHOTOS/CHELSEA BOYLE

Now on track to reopen its doors as a community hub in mid-April, the project has been almost four years in the making.

Mr Gillard said getting the work done was easy but finding the funding had taken time.

Apart from an initial seeding grant of $2000 from the Carterton District Council, project funding was a grass-roots operation that heavily relied on funding from a lotteries grant, Eastern and Central Community Trust, and community donations.

Lotteries will fund no more than two-thirds of such projects, so the trust had to raise at least $85,000 before it could even apply to the Lotteries Commission.

By 2016, the trust had secured more than its one-third contribution and could move forward with more certainty.

All aspects of the renovation along the way have been sub-contracted to avoid extra cost.

The renovated courthouse will boast grand old doors taken from a Palmerston North church, but will still offer the comforts of underfloor air conditioning, heat pumps and soundproofed walls in the meeting rooms.

“Anything we changed, we made sure it tied in with the original,” said Mr Gillard.

He was keen to preserve the building’s quirks that offer glimpses of the past.

Visitors will be able to see an outline on one of the inside walls where a fireplace once stood.

The building now holds a small hall area, a small commercial kitchen, a storage room, two soundproof meeting rooms, toilets and a reception area.

The commercial kitchen will be the final jewel in the crown as “a convenience that will be a big drawcard”.

Mr Gillard hopes a wide range of community activities will be held in the courthouse including public lectures, art showings and meetings.

“There is nothing else small in Wairarapa that lends itself so readily.”

Courthouse trustees are exploring how other communities have organised their community centres, and are looking for guidance from the Featherston Community Centre.

There are about 30 community groups who have expressed interest in using the space, which is located on Holloway St.

The courthouse and library bookended the Information Centre well, Mr Gillard said.

“Together it makes a community precinct.”


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