Sturdy and en­dur­ing

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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