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Blessing . . . Oamaru Tongan Methodist Church secretary Katalina Veituna says money from the Provincial Growth Fund will pay for upkeep that would otherwise have taken years to pay. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Receiving $319,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is a “blessing from God”, Oamaru Tongan Methodist Church secretary Katalina Veituna says.

The church community received funding to renovate the 1875 building in Eden St, which was the home of Oamaru Union Parish until 2016.

Mrs Veituna said the money would go towards a complete renovation of the building and bringing it up to earthquake standards.

It would be rewired, refloored, the heating improved, the pews restored and the kitchen redone.

The funding would take care of the building and allow Mrs Veituna and her husband, parish steward Livai, to concentrate on parishioners’ needs, she said.

“It was all a surprise; I’m really excited,” Mrs Veituna said.

“We are very fortunate to get this funding. Without it we wouldn’t know where to get the money from.

“This is an old building and they are expensive to repair .. our parish is mainly people on work visas and young families.

“It means the future generation doesn’t have to worry about thinking how to pay for this.

“It was great news after Covid and we can start moving forward.”

The church served as a social hub for the Tongan community, regardless of denomination, she said.

Its membership had grown steadily since 2016, with more than 50 members at present.

Mrs Veituna said that would probably continue to grow as the Tongan population in Oamaru also grew.

The church’s facilities were often used by other community groups as well, she said.

The process of getting the funding may have had some divine intervention.

Mrs Veituna said she was alerted to the funding only a week before the deadline by Waitaki district councillor Hana Halalele.

With a newborn baby, she initially thought it would not be possible to complete an application in time, but set to work.

Mrs Halalele, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, Methodist superintendent Tevita Finau and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had all helped in the application process, she said.

“Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Mrs Veituna said.

“It’s a reminder working together is important, and it’s part of this project.”

The renovation project, which is due to start this month, is being managed by Breen Construction, and Pasifika tradespeople would be used where possible, Mrs Veituna said.

She would like to see more young Pasifika get into trades, and seeing others in action would inspire young parishioners to follow in their footsteps, she said.

“In our church we don’t have tradespeople. They have the skills but not the [qualifications].

“One of our visions is to employ Pasifika and set an example for younger parishioners.”

Other successful PGF recipients in the Waitaki district were the Palmerston Sports Hall ($111,050 for a toilet upgrade, new ceiling and heatpumps) and the Kurow Museum and Information Centre ($95,000 for renovations).