Popular camping park Quinney’s Bush has taken on the historic neighbouring St. George’s Church, and is currently undertaking a huge landscaping project to restore the gardens and natural surroundings of the church.
The church, which was originally built in 1892, was the first Anglican Church in the rural area.
The church was sold by the Anglican diocese towards the end of last year, to neighbouring Quinney’s Bush.
Last year the diocese approached the community to try and come up with ideas with what to do with the old, historic building, which was seldom used.
That’s when Mark Quinney knew he had to do something.
“I thought, we can’t just let it rot. We have to look after it and look after the graves.”
As well as being an important historic site and listed as a Category 2 Historic Site under Heritage New Zealand, the church also holds family significance for Mark and the Quinney family.
“My grandparents are buried there, my parents are buried there, and I’ll be buried there,” he says.
It’s not just his parents and grandparents. The Quinney family has a long association with the neighbouring church.
The Brewerton’s – who the Quinney family is related to through marriage, donated the land for the church to be built on.
Like many country churches, the construction was driven by the community.
The closest Anglican Church before the construction of St George’s was in Motueka Valley.
Once the church was constructed, it meant that the 32 Anglican families who lived in Motupiko did not have to hold private services in their homes.
The local schoolmaster, Mr Evans, is credited as the main force behind this first local church.
Stead Ellis was entrusted with the design of the church, and the timber used in the building was bought from a local supplier – the Quinney Brothers, of which Mark is a direct descendant.
The brothers set up a timber dressing shed close to the church site and used water from a well to drive the steam engines. The final cost for the church was around £100.
Now, Mark is on a mission to restore the gardens and landscape of the church to its former glory.
“It was really overgrown, covered in blackberries, so we’ve cleared all the rubbish away.”
Landscaping that is currently underway will see new fences built around the church, with new trees planted as well as old trees that have been salvaged.
An old oak from the garden is being used to create outdoor seats and benches, for a reflection garden that is also being built.
The original church gates are also being restored.
“It’s a piece of local history. It’s been around for over 100 years, and I’m hoping it will be a focal point for the area.”
Mark says that while there won’t be regular services at the church, locals and visitors will be welcome to use the space.
“It will be available. During the camping season, there are a lot of people who want to hold services, so this will be a place for them to use.”