A Waimate couple has bought the Kakanui Church.
Anna Miles and Michael Simpson have a passion for heritage and are well versed in the history of the 149-year-old church building.
“It was designed by Scottish architect Robert Lawson, who was a prolific architect around that time in New Zealand,” Ms Miles said.
“He came out from Scotland and designed things like the First Church in Dunedin, Forrester Gallery, Lanarch Castle.”
The church in Kakanui and the East Gore Presbyterian Church were the only two timber churches left standing that were designed by Mr Lawson, she said.
“Michael and I have a real passion for particularly old buildings and nice simple designs like that which is the attraction for us.”
Ms Miles and Mr Simpson run Pear Tree Farm in Waimate, which deals with sales preparation, agistment, spelling and weaning services of thoroughbred horses.
They saw the building listed for sale earlier this year. When it went to a multi-offer situation, the Waimate couple made a bid and it was accepted.
“We actually don’t have a long-term plan for it, we just saw a building that needs saving.
“Whether we look at a holiday crib, or leave it so you can have small crowds in it – we are yet to discuss that with council.”
Mr Simpson is a builder by trade, which meant they could do most of the work themselves.
“I think if you had to pay a builder to do it you would run a mile,” Ms Miles said.
“When Michael was working as a builder he has worked on lots of historic places so he’s got the experience behind him.”
Ms Miles and Mr Simpson had already started work on like-for-like replacements and repairs.
“It’s a big job,” Ms Miles said.
“They took about nine years to agree to sell it and in that time not a lot has been done with it.
“At the moment our big thing is to get it watertight, because it’s not particularly at the moment.”
Mr Simpson said they wanted to leave the building as close as possible to its original form.
There was plenty of repair work to get started on, and the key was breaking down the project “stage by stage”, he said.
St Paul’s Maheno-Otepopo Presbyterian Church minister Rev Rose Luxford said she was pleased the building was going to be preserved.
It was 10 years since it was used regularly for church services, Rev Luxford said.
“Over the years there has been quite a few ideas and initiatives and it just hasn’t worked out.
“We feel it has been quite a good conclusion really.”
A number of the people who were part of the worshipping community there had moved to Oamaru, she said.