Sturdy and enduring
St Patrick’s Church in Burkes Pass is the oldest union church still in use in New Zealand. It stands on its original site, between Burkes Pass village and the original cemetery, the perfect example of a local co-operating church in a small isolated community.
According to the information plaque provided, the early pioneers of the MacKenzie Basin area met at Stansell’s Accommodation House on August 26, 1871, to plan a church to serve the huge area from Geraldine to Mt Cook. It would be built for several denominations, including Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic.
Burkes Pass must have been considered the last outpost of civilisation in those days. It’s hard to imagine such isolation in times when transport is so taken for granted but 150 years ago the churches of our high country regions played a major part in providing not only the opportunity to congregate for religious devotion but also some much-needed social contact. It was no mean feat to get to a service, with attendees often travelling through snow and flooded rivers.
At the end of the fortnightly service the postie, arrived from Timaru via horseback, would hand out mail to the congregation as they left the church. Attending church must have been a most exciting expedition, not only fulfilling religious duties but a chance to wear your best clothes, see friends and acquaintances and quite possibly receive news and information from distant shores.
It is a Heritage NZ category 1 listed building designed by WWilliamson and built in 1872 by Ogilvie and Jones of Timaru. A simple wooden construction with a Gothicstyle porch, lancet windows and an interior still in original condition. Simple buttresses, along with the old pines nearby, protect it from being buffeted too much by high winds.
This tough, enduring little building has withstood decades of rugged alpine weather.
Happily, in 2000 The Burkes Pass Heritage Trust was formed to protect and preserve this building for future generations. The trust has created a heritage walk taking in a small musterers hut, the Mt Cook Road Board Office built in 1876, the former hotel, school and several of the sturdy cob cottages built of clay and tussock.
Follow on to the cemetery for more exploring.
It is still in use as a church, community meeting place, wedding venue and heritage centre, open to visitors and a delightful stop for a chance to reflect on what life was like all that time ago.
– Karen Rolleston The RSM Law Plunket Art Show concludes on Sunday at the Aigantighe Art Gallery. With more than 240 paintings, sculptures, ceramics and glass works by artists from around New Zealand, this is a great opportunity to see a wide range of artists.
Included in the exhibition is work by Auckland artist Joanna Fieldes, who grew up on a sheep and cattle farm in the Wairarapa, and has a uniquely surreal vision of New Zealand, unencumbered by conventional modes of representation. In her landscapes, animated figures, such as birds, rabbits and kiwis, interact with ceramic vessels to re-enact New Zealand’s colonial past, showing the impact of New Zealand’s history on its landscape and the life forms, indigenous and introduced, that inhabit it.
Fieldes has exhibited in solo, joint and group shows in public and private galleries throughout New Zealand since her first solo show in Auckland in 2004.