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Current as of 24/10/14 07:40PM NZST

Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Airport church finds home in heritage park

Peter Alexander says the Westney Methodist Church and other historic buildings displaced by airport growth are very important to the area. Photo / Dean Purcell
Peter Alexander says the Westney Methodist Church and other historic buildings displaced by airport growth are very important to the area. Photo / Dean Purcell

A new historic building precinct will open at Auckland Airport in five months, finally giving a home to a much-moved old church.

The Abbeville Farm Estate in Nixon Rd is an 11ha area of pasture and mature trees housing heritage buildings including the 1855 Westney Homestead, an 1850s barn and the 1856 Westney Methodist church.

For more than a century, the distinctive little white wooden church stood alone at the intersection of George Bolt Memorial Drive and Ihumatao Rd, on the road to the airport.

But it was shifted in 2007 to prepare for development, including a northern runway.

Peter Alexander, general manager of property for Auckland International Airport, said it was temporarily relocated until a proper site could be prepared.

Two months ago, the church was shifted to its new permanent site near the barn and homestead, where the public would be able to see it after next year's official opening, Mr Alexander said.

The stained-glass windows were removed before the church was moved, to keep them safe, and the spaces they occupied are currently boarded up. Graves near the church were also relocated, many to Mangere Lawn Cemetery.

For some years, the airport has been working with heritage architect Dave Pearson and iwi on a heritage conservation plan to develop the Abbeville estate for weddings, exhibitions, food events and corporate functions.

Redeveloping the estate cost $3.1 million.

"These buildings have obviously been displaced by our activities but they are extremely important," Mr Alexander said.

One of the first Maori Land Courts had been assembled in the barn, he said, and the farm was originally the home of colonial military commander Colonel Marmaduke George Nixon.

The rolling form of Abbeville's site was also typical of how the contours of the airport's 1500ha were before it was developed, Mr Alexander said.

The Westney Homestead is still being refurbished and landscaping is yet to be done connecting the house with the nearby barn.

Four generations of the Westney family lived in the homestead, which was more recently occupied by sharemilkers.

The Westneys, who lived there for 70 years, donated the land on which the church was built, and George Bolt Memorial Drive was originally Westney Rd.

DONE ROAMING

Westney Methodist Church, Mangere

* Built in 1856, enlarged 1887, vestry added 1918.
* Shifted three times in four years.
* Moved off main airport road in 2007.
* Temporarily sited in a gully on airport land.
* Now at Abbeville Farm Estate.
* Part of new heritage venue opening in March.

- NZ Herald

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