Neil Rooney estimates more than 40,000 people from around New Zealand and 40 other countries have visited St Luke’s Church since October 2002, when a volunteer group was formed to ensure it could be seen.
The Steeple People open the doors of the church to the public on a regular basis and are on hand to answer questions about it, and point out areas of interest.
The group was formed after the church was closed to the public – something that did not sit well with many – when it was vandalised.
The group has noted the nationality of every visitor for the past 15 years, during a visitor season that runs from October to April.
Recently, the 4000th visitor in the 2016-17 season, a French tourist, passed through.
Mr Rooney, a Steeple People volunteer, said a record number of people had visited the church this season with many more expected before the season ended in about six weeks.
Last week alone, 287 people visited the church.
Mr Rooney said the list of nationalities that had passed though the church’s doors over the past few months made interesting reading.
“The country that is the top of the list is China and then Germany, followed by New Zealand. It’s pleasing to think there are New Zealanders that are touring the country and are coming up the hill here.”
St Luke’s Church vicar Andrea McDougall said there were several points of interest the people enjoyed.
They included photographs of the church being constructed, a board with the names of local men who returned from World War 1, stained glass windows designed by artist Colin Wheeler in memory of long-time parishioner Bill Naylor, the church’s World Wars honour rolls, and its organ pipes.
There is also a small outdoor memorial dedicated to those who died when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, which she said many Japanese people “found quite moving”.
“Some people come because it’s a beautiful building, others come because their grandparents were married here and others come because they want to sit and be quiet, or to a place to pray or light a candle and say a prayer.”
It was also common to see tourists at the church’s regular services.
Mr Rooney said visitor numbers had generally increased year on year.
About 2600 people visited in 2002-03.
“We didn’t beat that for a year or two, so it’s wonderful to think . . . we’ve achieved 4000. There’s a lot more interest in the historic precinct.”
In total, he estimated the number of visitors since 2000 was in the “mid-40,000s”.