Historic Gem Reopens in Coastal New Zealand

Labour day, 22 October saw the reopening of St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Akaroa, following an eight-month long restoration made possible by a successful fundraising campaign lead by AskRIGHT. Under the guidance of consultants Shelagh Murray and Jennifer Eagar, parish volunteers exceeded their fundraising target to raise close to $300,000 to pay for this ambitious and transformative restoration project that cost $800,000. In addition, AskRIGHT consultants facilitated substantial grants for the project through Heritage New Zealand and local trusts. This success enabled much-needed major work to be completed including work to the foundations, floor, roof, cladding on the tower, insulation, and installing wiring throughout the building. Borer, which had infested much of the woodwork, was also eradicated.

Built in 1864 by Irish-born John Cullen, St Patrick’s Church is 154 years old, an iconic landmark of Akaroa, and a site of the beginnings of Catholic faith on the South Island.

During the opening ceremony, Bishop Paul Martin SM thanked all those whose energy and effort made the restoration possible.

“Our Faith is expressed in action and what we do today is a reflection of this. This building, beautiful as it is, is not an end in itself, but a part of the history of this place. Those who have worked for this have done so for those who are to come, just as our forebears in the faith did,” he said. 

Parish Priest Fr Paul Shannahan, whose support was critical to the success of the fundraising campaign, also gave thanks to the community, saying “This restoration has been in progress for over a decade and everyone is full of admiration for the final product.”

More than 100 parishioners and visitors attended the ceremony including members of the parish council, parishioners from other Christchurch parishes, and also builders Farrell Construction and heritage architect Dave Piarson.

Parishioner and campaign volunteer Ged Foley, whose families have worshipped at St Patrick’s for generations cut the cake along with his granddaughter Thea Foley. 

Robyn Jones, chairperson of the parish council, and leader in the parish fundraising, shared her delight at the successful completion of the project. “The fundraising campaign for the restoration meant having time to meet with people, and this personal contact led to a lot more than just asking for money. The generosity of parishioners and the hard work of the parish council was humbling.”