West Coast


Church Name: St Mary.  First church

The first church at Ahaura was simply the east end wing of the school building. 1871-1898. Fr Pertuis opened a boarding school for girls in 1872, intended for all denominations. In 1873 a further building was erected as a boys’ school. Contemporary photos show a doorway leading into what was probably a large end room with arched windows. There was no free-standing church until the second St Mary’s was built in 1898.



Church Name: St Mary

Fr Servajean was appointed Ahaura parish priest in 1897 and immediately began collecting for a new church as the old one was too small.   The church, which cost £350, was opened debt-free in 1898. Its architect was J.A. Eissenhardt, builders Currie Brothers. It was still standing in1971. Fourteen months after arriving at Ahaura Fr Servajean was transferred to Christchurch.



Church Name: Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In 1947 the Stafford church of St Luke and St Michael’s church at Waimea were dismantled, the materials being used at Awatuna to build a new church. Bishop Lyons blessed and opened the church on August 17, 1947.

“The new church is unique in many respects. Its historical relationship with the district has been fully preserved by the use in its construction of timbers from the old churches at Stafford and Waimea. It was built by Mr N. Neville under the direction of Rev Fr J.S. O’Brien in whose parish it is situated. It is situated on the road between Awatuna and Stafford.”

By 1971 the church was no longer being used and it was auctioned, being sold for the price of the land.



Church Name: All Saints

Barrytown was part of the Ahaura parish until 1883. It is believed there may have been two churches in the area.

According to the Grey Valley parish history two churches were built in Barrytown. The first was built in 1881 under the supervision of Fr Rolland, the plans being drawn by Grey County engineer Mr Butler. Materials were brought from Greymouth by sea by the builder, Mr Arnott. It was destroyed by fire about 1900.

The Parish Returns of 1892 refer to All Saints Church at Barrytown being 30 by 20 feet, built of timber at a cost of £200 and opened 12 years earlier. However in 1895 the same returns refer to t he church of Barrytown being blown down by a recent storm. In 1905 the returns refer again to All Saints Church in Barrytown, built of timber, cost about £200 .

There is some confusion over the church being destroyed by wind or fire, and date. This could be explained if there were two churches, as the Grey Valley Parish history implies. From the parish returns it would appear the first church was blown down about 1895, was rebuilt and that church was possibly burnt down after 1905.



Church Name: St Brendan

Mass stations existed at Blackball at least as early as 1892, but by the early 1900s it was decided a church was needed.

The first church burned down in 1900. Fr Leen canvassed the district for funds in 1904 and St Brendan’s church was opened free of debt on February 22, 1905, at a cost of £200. The opening Mass was celebrated by Fr Leen, with the choir of the Ahaura church singing.  It measured 38ft x 22ft with a sanctuary 13ft x 13ft and sacristy 8ft x 9ft.

The church was damaged by wind May 28, 1965 when it was lifted from its foundations and moved eight feet. It was not re-opened. Photo taken after the wind damage occurred. The bell was given to the Cheviot church in 1971.


Church Name: Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

Brunnerton. In 1892 called Blessed Virgin Mary of Perpetual Succour.



J.J. Wilson is the only one to make a reference to Clifton, and there may be some confusion with the nearby settlement of Marsden. He said: “Fr Colomb purchased a small house at Clifton, near Marsden, to make a chapel of it.



Church Name: Holy Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary Church was opened by Dean Carew on October 3, 1910, with seating room for 150 and extra space for a   choir gallery and bell. Severely damaged by a south west gale in the early 1930s and strengthened with steel rails on the north side. Closed in 1962 and removed to build a new church, Mass being celebrated in the school hall while the church was being built.



Church Name: Possibly Sacred Heart

Opened in Bute Street, November 29, 1908. This church was probably dedicated to the Sacred Heart, as that was the name it was known by after it was moved to Runanga in October 1921.



Dunganville was known as Māori Creek until 1875. A chapel, probably not dedicated, was built there. A church is mentioned in the 1892 parish returns.

The only other reference to it says: “The Catholic Church was built on a hill overlooking the township and below it was the Protestant [Wesleyan] Church”



Fr M. O’Meeghan in Held Firm by Faith says: “A few days later [in 1866] he [Bishop Viard] went south by ship to Okarito and celebrated Mass on Pentecost Sunday at the Five Mile in Mr Coglan’s large room with hundreds gathered outside the door.”

Another source says: “In 1866 and 1867 the parish priest of Hokitika, Father McGirr, visited Okarito by boat from Hokitika. There was a chapel at Five Mile in 1867. When the settlement closed the chapel was transferred to Gillespies Beach. Until then the most distant outpost for the priest from Hokitika was Five Mile. The assistant priest from Hokitika, Father John Goutenoire, made the journey to Okarito by boat and so on to Five Mile. The track through the bush had not been made then. The journey along the beach was the road taken by the miners with its dangers of negotiating the bluffs and crossing the rivers.



There was a chapel at Five Mile in 1867 and when that settlement closed the chapel was transferred to Gillespies Beach.

“The Catholic community at Fox Glacier has drawn its strength from the original Irish settlers who mined the black sands of Gillespies Beach for gold. In spite of the rugged conditions of their shantytown existence in those years of the 1860s and 1870s, prayer gatherings and the Rosary ensured that children were given a strong grounding in their faith.

“During the early years these meetings were held in private homes but as more permanent buildings were erected the need for a place of worship increased. With local timber and materials the miners built a small wooden church in the   sand-hills in line with other community buildings such as school, store and hotel.

“This little church was unique to South Westland because it was the only one built on the gold-mining beaches. Where other settlements died away and became ghost towns, Gillespies Beach seemed to stabilise because of the close bond with the church. It gave a feeling of permanence and security to the Irish Catholic families. Religious instruction and education were of great importance to them and many of their descendants later took up the vocation of priests or nuns; the most well-known of these being Cardinal Williams. The church at Gillespies gradually fell into poor repair until it was razed during the gold dredging in the early 1930s.”

In the 1892 parish returns its construction cost as £30.



A church at Granville is referred to in the 1875 Ahaura baptismal register, where it is recorded that Eamon Burke and Michael Hayes were baptised on July 15 in the Granville Church.

Granville, also known as Duffers Creek or Half Ounce, was about three miles north of Totara Flat. The first Totara Flat church was not built until about 1885 by Fr J.J. O’Donnell. Although it was situated about a quarter of a mile north of Totara Flat the dating means this was not the church referred to in the register.

Archbishop Redwood in his 1887 “Sketch of the Diocese” said  “The district was visited by Fathers Colomb SM and Binsfield [sic] SM and small churches were built at Nelson Creek, Granville …..”

In the Grey River Argus of March 12, 1874 we read “The consecration, dedication and opening services in connection with the new Roman Catholic Church at Granville, Half-Ounce, will take place on Sunday, 8th inst.

The following week the paper reported


The new Roman Catholic Church at Granville was opened on Sunday, 8th instant.  The Rev. E. Pertius, the parish priest, was the officiating clergyman, and there was a very numerous congregation, composed of residents of the immediate locality and visitors from all parts of the district.  The church is a neat little structure, situated at the lower part of township, near the Government camp, and it reflects credit not only on the effort of the Messrs Noonan, P. Bourke and other members of the building committee on whom devolved the duty of raising the funds, but also on the workmanship and taste of the builders Messrs Michael Hartigan & Co.



In 1873 the first church was built at Greenstone, the priest chiefly responsible for the building of this church is said to have been Fr Ecuyer SM who was stationed at Greymouth. Records have it that this church had only a short life as flooding and the build-up of sluice tailings forced the building of a new church up on the right hand side of the Greenstone Creek.

In Valley of Little Towns Rona Adshead and Jillian Johnson say ” In February of 1873 Bishop Moran, the newly appointed bishop of Dunedin, undertook the Herculean task of visiting these West Coast parishes. After opening the Greenstone Church…..”



Church Name: St Patrick or St John the Evangelist

There is some doubt over the name of this church as two sources give different names.

This church was built and opened late in 1874 and dedicated to the patronage of St John the Evangelist. Built by J.H. King. Opened by Frs Ecuyer, Martin, McGuinness and Chareyre, the latter being local pastor. The church was demolished in the time of Fr O’Hare as Kumara Parish Priest, 1918—1922.

That’s according to the Kumara Parish history, but the parish return of 1905 says “St Patrick’s Greenstone, built in 1875. No records left to show cost of erection.

Earlier, the 1892 return also referred to St Patrick’s.



A small church was opened in Arney Street, Greymouth on December 10, 1865, but was replaced the following year.



Church Name: St Patrick

On June 17, 1866, Bishop Viard blessed St Patrick’s church in Arney Street, Greymouth, the parish priest at the time being Fr Emmanuel Royer.The Bishop was accompanied by his Vicar-General J.J.P. O’Reily.. St Mary’s Hokitika was consecrated on Sunday 13 May and St Patrick’s Greymouth, on Sunday 17 June.

Unfortunately the site was too near the Grey River, the frequent floods of which brought the waters to a depth of five feet within the little building…….

Father Colomb enlarged the church to double its dimensions and built the first Catholic School, the site of which was subsequently purchased by the Government for harbour improvements.

When Father (later Dean) Carew was appointed Parish Priest at Greymouth he at once recognised that the church must be moved to higher ground and set out to build the third church in Chapel Street.



Church Name: St Patrick

Bishop Redwood laid the foundation of the new St Patrick’s church in Chapel Street on April 17, 1887. Designed by Dunedin architect Francis Petre the building was dedicated by Bishop Grimes on May 20, 1888. It cost £5600 to build, one of the builders being a Mr Bell.

A bell tower and spire were added in 1900, but the spire was demolished some time between 1964 and 1967, apparently because the parish priest when it was built insisted that New Zealand timber be used rather than Australian hardwood as the builder wanted. As a result its structure deteriorated.

The nave was widened and a sacristy added in 1912.



Church Name: ?

This photo, from Christchurch Diocesan Archives carries the inscription “First Hokitika church”. The first church was opened on December 24, 1865 in Tancred Street and was replaced the following year.

According to Westland’s Golden Century, the Jewish, Methodist and Roman Catholic congregations had all erected buildings in Hokitika before the end of 1865. The Roman Catholic Church opened on 24th December. ” The Roman Catholic parishioners had also pushed on with all haste to provide a church, which was ready for the Christmas services of 1865.”

Philip Ross May in The West Coast Gold Rushes says: “The first resident priest at Hokitika was Father M’Girr; Father Royer made Greymouth his headquarters. With the aid of local building committees two places of worship were quickly erected, the Hokitika Chapel in Tancred Street being opened on 24 December 1865. A more permanent   church, to replace the original chapel, was completed early in 1866.”



Church Name: St Mary

(Photograph from the Marist Archives)

Costing £800, this church was blessed and opened on May 13, 1866 by Bishop Viard of Wellington, Father Jeremiah O’Reily OFM Cap. Vicar General of Wellington preaching in both Irish and English at the opening.

St Patrick’s Greymouth was consecrated a month later, on Sunday 17 June.



Church Name: St Joseph

St Joseph’s church was opened in 1872 at a cost of £300 to £400. From 1910 i t was also used as a schoolroom until about 1920 when it was destroyed by fire, just after a new schoolroom was built.



Church Name: St Joseph

Believed to have been built about 1920 to replace the earlier church, which was destroyed by fire. It was dismantled in the late 1970s


A chapel was at Māori Gully before Fr Binsfeld and Fr Colomb’s time, not dedicated.

“Fr Colomb lined the chapel at Māori Gully which was already in existence before his and Father Binsfeld’s advent.”

The Ahaura parish return 1892: “Never heard who the patron of the church at Māori Gully is.” In 1895 the return said:” All churches in good order and condition except one small church at Māori Gully which requires repairing.”



The Chapel at Marsden was probably not dedicated.

J.J. Wilson said Father Colomb purchased a house at Clifton, near Marsden, to make a chapel, which may be this building, but the two settlements were about a kilometre apart and quite distinct, with other sources referring to a church at Clifton..

Greymouth, the First 100 Years, says: “About 1883 Barrytown and Marsden were added to the parish of Greymouth, little churches having previously being erected at both places by the Rev. Father Rolland.

Another source says the Marsden church was built in 1883

Finally, in Valley of Little Towns Rona Adshead says: “In February of 1873 Bishop Moran, the newly appointed bishop of Dunedin, undertook the Herculean task of inspecting these West Coast parishes. After opening the Greenstone Church he passed through Marsden where he “received addresses” and his carriage was then escorted to Greymouth by a body of horsemen. Doubtless he was consulted over the desirability of acquiring land for a future church, probably looked over the suggested site and gave his approval for 10 acres to be bought when the Marsden sections were auctioned in April. This was negotiated by Cornelius O’Driscoll and his committee as trustees of the Catholic Church at a cost of £1 per acre. But it was to be 10 years before Father Rolland saw to the building of the Marsden church prior to his departure from Ahaura in 1884.

“The Marsden church never grew to the status of serving a parish and was thus designated a chapel. The site on which it was built is called Chapel Hill to this day [1986]. It is a gentle rise from the main road that commands a fine view of the valley where the township once nestled.

“In 1892 the parish annual report noted briefly that the chapel was in need of repair. This is probably when the totara shingle roof was covered in corrugated iron which was the unwitting cause of its destruction. Late in 1916 when some unwanted scrub was being cleared nearby, stray sparks lodged between the iron and shingle and, before anyone was aware of it, fire had spread through the roof. The difficulty of bringing water sealed its fate. The tiny wooden church was soon razed to the ground.

“Today [1986] a moss covered hawthorn marks the foundation. If one is prepared to search through the tangle of gorse, scrub and long grass, the remains of gateposts, staunchly upright against the ravages of time, can be found where the two upward paths meet.”



The Whataroa and Fox Glacier churches history says: “There was a recognised congregation of Catholics in Matainui in the 1880s which by the early 1900s required a church. John Butler and Duncan Scalley donated land on the old main road at Whataroa. During Father J.P. O’Connor’s time (1902-13) a church was built there by Tommy Casey, and opened by Bishop Grimes in 1907.

“Jim Nolan recalls: ‘I can well remember the old church half way up the hill to the Friend residence…. The little church was always packed. It was becoming too small and meetings were held about bringing to fruition the construction of a bigger church in a more central position…. The whole area was designated Matainui and was later changed to Wataroa and later still to Whataroa.”

The old church [Matainui] was shifted in sections to the site of the new church [Whataroa] where it became a meeting place for parish groups.



Church Name: St Patrick

Nelson Creek was earlier known as Hatters Terrace. The church is believed to have been built in 1875, but was possibly built as early as 1865 by Paddy Coll. The 1892 Parish return says: St Patrick’s Hatters Terrace, built in 1875, about £300.

In 2006 it was no longer in use as a Catholic church but remained on site as a community church.



Church Name: ?

The first Notown church was shifted to Ngahere in 1922.    After a new church was built in 1960 the old church was used as a parish hall for five years before being sold and later given by the new owners to Shantytown where it remains today [2007], as shown by the latter two photos.



Church Name: St Laurence O’Toole

Bishop Viard gave permission for the erection of a church at Notown when he visited in 1865, staying with a Mr Gillin at Twelve Mile. Materials for the prefabricated church were shipped from Auckland and up the Grey River. Fr Royer of Greymouth celebrated the first Mass in 1866. The church, which was a little distance from the township, served until a new one was built in the town 20 years later.

After 36 years standing unused it was moved to Ngahere in 1922 where it served until 1960.It was moved to make way for the new Ngahere church in 1960 and served as the parish hall until 1965. It was then sold to the Matthews family and in 1970 was given by them to Shantytown, the newly constructed tourist village at Rutherglen, south of Greymouth. It is still there today.

In Valley of Little Towns Rona Adshead says of the church at Shantytown: “ “The opening ceremony was preceded by an authentic, and reverent, wedding in the 105-year-old Notown church that had been donated in excellent condition by Mr E. Matthews five months after the first Shantytown project meeting had been called. It was a magnificent gesture of faith that stimulated all those who were becoming involved in helping.

“The church has an absorbing history. By 1876 Notown, 17 miles inland from Greymouth, in the Grey Valley, was flourishing as a properly laid-out, booming gold town. A church was considered an essential addition. Correspondence was entered into with Bishop Philip Viard SM, Wellington, who authorized Patrick Gillan of Kamaka (upstream of Stillwater) to order all building requirements from Auckland and have them shipped to Greymouth. From there they were barged to Kamaka and then taken by sledge miles inland to Notown. Messrs Arnott and Seabrook, a building partnership in Greymouth, erected the church at a cost of £254 and the first Mass was celebrated in 1866 by the foundation priest of Greymouth, Rev. Father Emmanuel Royer, a Frenchman. By 1922 Notown was a ghost town and the church was disused.

“Its second journey took place. Michael McLaughlin of Red Jacks financed the removal of the church to Ngahere, further along the Grey Valley, where it was never closed for a service until its successor was built in 1958. A great-grandson of P.J. Gillin, E. Matthews, then bought the church and kept it in excellent condition until he handed it over to Shantytown. The West Coast Master Builders adopted the project of dismantling, shifting and rebuilding the church as their contribution. The bell has been preserved from the original Greymouth Anglican church.”



Built in 1886 or 1887 by Fr J.J. O’Donnell, Mr Arnott being the builder, at a cost of £320. It was situated in the township whereas the earlier church was a little distance from the township. It was blessed and opened by Bishop Redwood in 1866. The earlier church remained in place for a further 36 years until it was moved to Ngahere.



The first Catholic Church at Okarito was opened in 1868.



Church name: Holy Cross Formerly at Waiuta, a gold mining town near Reefton (in the Wellington Archdiocese), this church was built in 1923. In 1952, after the Waiuta gold mine was flooded and the town closed, the church was dismantled and moved to Poerua, to a site donated by Mick Larkin, where it served the Poerua, Rotomanu and Inchbonnie districts. Bishop Joyce blessed it and named it Holy Cross in 1953. Over time it was damaged by wind, the walls requiring strengthening with struts and concrete abutments. A flood in 1980 also threatened the church.

In 1994 it was closed and in 1996 sold to Grant and Fran Marshall who moved it to nearby Lake Poerua where it has become Hidden Valley Holiday Lodge. A marble plaque marks the spot where it stood at Poerua



Church Name: St Mary

St Mary’s church is listed in the 1892 parish returns as costing £100. A further reference to it in the 1895 return as being called St Brigid’s is probably incorrect, but here the completion date is given as August 1884. A school was opened in 1901.

The church was closed on May 9, 1982, the closing Mass being celebrated by Bishop Ashby.



Church Name: Sacred Heart

This church was built at Dunollie in 1908 for £520 and was moved October 1921 to Duncan Street, Runanga where it was later replaced by present church.



Church Name: St Luke


Stafford was also known as Staffordtown. The Church of St Luke was opened by Fr McDonough in 1868. In 1948 during Fr J.S. O’Brien’s time as Kumara parish priest it was dismantled and parts used to build the Awatuna church.



Church Name: St Munchin

The church was built by Fr J.J. O’Donnell and named after the saint the church in his home town in Ireland was dedicated to, also the patron of Limerick Diocese. Opened in 1885 it was situated slightly north of Totara Flat.



Church Name: St Pius X

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Joyce   on October 21, 1951, the parish priest of Ngahere being Fr James Quinn. The building was fully paid for before the foundation stone was laid because of the site being given by Pat Kennedy and the building paid for by the McDonnell family. The church, dedicated at that time to Blessed Pius X, was opened in May 1952.

“Of simple and clean design, the church is somewhat reminiscent of earlier goldfield buildings, but with sensible variations. It has a very large porch, which is a great asset in wet weather. The sacristy is a room, rather than a box-like structure that adhered to the back of so many older churches. The sanctuary extends the full width of the building, making it very suitable for the new liturgy.”



Try Again Terrace was a mining district on Nelson Creek, near the Grey River

J.J. Wilson referring to Fr Binsfeld’s first visit to the diggings in May 1870, wrote: “Now there was relief and ease of mind; the country before him was level to the end of his destination, which was the group of adjacent diggings up Nelson Creek.

“Towards sunset he arrived at ‘Try Again” where he put up at a store for the night. The storekeeper, his brother, and the few miners of the locality soon made him feel that he was at least there on friendly ground. “Try Again” was a worked out diggings. A few years previous hundreds of men had been working there. Now all that remained resembled a totally destroyed city. Long sections of tail-racing, hillocks of boulders, huge uprooted trees in every direction were all that remained — a scene of desolation.

“A temporary chapel was found here, which had a weather-beaten appearance, like the rest of the deserted huts and shops surrounding. Evening service was held, consisting of rosary, sermon and night prayers. Mass was celebrated next morning.

“This was his first day’s work on the diggings, and he rejoiced at it, for all the men assisted and edified him by their truly Catholic spirit.”



Church Name: Our Lady of the Way

A state school bought 1952, and windows & altar removed from abandoned Waimea Church were installed.It was opened in 1953, closed  in 1997.

The Kumara Parish History says:   “Fr Joe Leonard stayed in Kumara until February 1955 during which time much was accomplished. His biggest accomplishment was the building of the Church of Our Lady of the Way at Turiwhate. Fr Joe had the happy knack of getting the right men for the right job. He fossicked out the late Bill Hutchison (Brick) to be head man at the building of the Turiwhate church; he could not have picked on a more thorough or conscientious man and without Brick there would have been no church.

“Getting supplies of materials was no problem for Father. If you had them, he just took them, it was nothing for him to arrive at your house at any hour of the night seeking goods and chattels for a given job; if you could not help you just made Father a couple of onion sandwiches and on to the next hope he went.”

The church was known colloquially and somewhat irreverentally as the Church of the Good Thief because of the way materials were sourced, also, owing to its situation surrounded by bush, it was called by some the Church of the Twelve Opossums.



Church Name: St Michael

Waimea was also known as Goldsborough or Old Waimea Various sources differ over who built this church.

The church of St Michael was blessed and opened by Fr Joseph Larkin in June 1867. Prior to the building of the church Fr Larkin had celebrated Mass in a calico structure that also served as the courthouse.

The floor consisted of 12 x 1 clean heart silver pine. The whole dome of the sanctuary was lined with a sky blue material that had white stars dotted all over it.

Fr Belliard, died 1877, was buried under the altar until 1920 when his remains were exhumed and buried in the Greymouth cemetery.. The reason was that the Waimea Creek had built up and was threatening the church and the remains.

Referring to Fr Chareyre J.J. Wilson says “He built a church at Ross, also a fine presbytery, and a beautiful church at Waimea (Goldsborough)”

Other sources say St Michael’s Catholic Church at Waimea was blessed and opened in June 1866 by Bishop Philip Viard SM and his Vicar General Father J.J.P O’Reily while on their first and only visit to the Coast

Were there two churches, or is there confusion over who built it?

In the 1930s the church was sold and dismantled by Martin and John Fahey of Kumara.