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shores of Lake
Poerua is the
hidden in the
folds of the
foothills of the Southern Alps, but
for most of its life this was a house of
Catholic worship, at both Waiuta and
e building started life in Waiuta in
1923, a town of many riches and two
churches, one Catholic, and the other
a combined Anglican-Presbyterian
Frances Hunter's father filmed a
wedding at the Catholic Church,
called the Church of St John the
Evangelist, and she made her first
Holy Communion there.
"I think the Stations of the Cross are
still at Waiuta," Frances said.
Waiuta never had a resident priest,
the remote gold town instead being
ser ved from Reefton.
Ann O'Donnell, who had the
Blackwater Hotel, took a great interest
but in the town's early days, Mass was
conducted in the old school room;
community fundraising led by Ann
and Tony Anisy changed all that.
But in 1952, after the mine abruptly
closed and Waiuta was abandoned
almost overnight, the Catholic Church
was moved to Lake Poerua, to a site
donated by Mick Larkin, where it
served the Poerua, Rotomanu and
Rathbuns of Greymouth dismantled
it, carefully numbering each piece of
timber, before transporting it to its
new location on the hillside between
Rotomanu and Inchbonnie.
Its crisp white paint, against the
mountains, made it a beacon for
passing train passengers for many
Bishop Joyce blessed the relocated
church in 1953, renaming it Holy
Cross. Over time it was damaged by
wind, requiring wall strengthening
with struts and concrete abutments.
en, in 1990 a flash flood also
threatened the church when waters
from Evans Creek almost made
it inside, despite the 1m high
In 1994, Holy Cross Church was
closed as numbers dwindled, and in
1996 the deconsecrated building was
sold to Grant and Fran Marshall, who
two years later moved it just 2km,
where it has become Hidden Valley
A marble plaque marks the spot
where it once stood as a church.
So why did the Marshalls buy a
" e opportunity came up because
it was up for sale. e congregation
had started going to Moana," Fran
Marshall said. "We wrote to the
diocese and said we would restore it.
Others had wanted it as a barn."
Its new name, Hidden Valley, is taken
from the title of a 1985 book written
by Rona Adshead about the history
of the district, featuring a painting of
Lake Poerua on the front cover.
Some said it could never be moved,
but with the help of confident builder
friends, No 8 wire and fencing
strainers, wires were tied vertically,
diagonally and horizontally until the
building was ready to hit the road.
"After all that the doubters were
nearly vindicated when the (sacristy)
which was attached to the end of the
building (where the bay window now
stands) broke away, it was only held
on by a couple of rusty nails," the
Marshalls explain on their Hidden
"With much cheering and clapping
this greatly impressed the local
Rotomanu School children, who had
the afternoon off to watch the grand
shift. After a heart stopping trip up the
hill, Hidden Valley Lodge was put to
rest on its new site by the bush edge
overlooking Lake Poerua and the
ever-changing scenery below."
After a visit to History House, old
photos of Holy Cross Church now line
"A lady came and had a look at
the pictures, and she recognised her
mother as a 15-year-old in the church
at Waiuta. She was in tears, as they
had lost their own photos. She was so
happy to find a picture of her mother,"
Converting the church into a lodge
was a "labour of love," she said.
e church furnishings were
donated to the Carmelite Convent, in
e renovation has impressed Pauline
Shaffrey, who attended Holy Cross as
a child growing up in Inchbonnie.
"Mostly we went in the car, but there
was a point when we didn't have a car
--- but we had a flash tractor."
ey built a little tray to sit over the
back, so she would go to church facing
backwards. Her brother and sisters got
married there; her brother's was the
last wedding there, in 1984.
Resident again in the area, Pauline
Shaffrey is impressed with the church
renovation. "It's wonderful."
Faith of our Fathers:
Old West Coast churches
e Hidden Valley Lodge at Lake Poer ua, near Inchbonnie, formerly Holy Cross Catholic Church, transported there board by board from old Waiuta.
e renovated interior today.
PICTURE: Jos Divis
e Church of St John the Evangelist, extreme right, as it was originally in Waiuta,
A Catholic church that started life in Waiuta and was later moved to Lake Poerua, near
Inchbonnie, has a new lease on life as an attractive tourist lodge, enticingly renamed
Hidden Valley. It only just survived the move to its new home, to be lovingly transformed,
as LAURA MILLS reports.
Lake Poerua Catholic Church
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