Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Heritage listing would give St Faith's church 'the mana it is due' says proponent

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One of Rotorua's most revered churches is being considered for a spot on the New Zealand Heritage List.

The Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Tonga office has advised that the Maori Heritage Council is considering a proposal to enter St Faith's Anglican Church in Ohinemutu on the New Zealand Heritage List as a wahi tupuna.

A wahi tupuna is defined as a place important to Maori for ancestral significance and associated cultural and traditional values.

In the proposal, put forward by the church's vestry, St Faith's is said to encompass "many layers of history for Ngati Whakaue and wider Te Arawa from the burial of Hinetekakara by Ihenga around the 14th century ... to the efforts of many of their descendants who created the church as it stands today".

The church has a "rich Maori interior" and the cemetery houses "many significant figures in the life of the church and wider region".

Rotorua district councillor, cultural ambassador and Ohinemutu resident Trevor Maxwell said the news was fantastic.

"Living in Ohinemutu, I have seen thousands of visitors flock to see the iconic building. It has really stood the test of time and is up there with the likes of the Bath House and Rotorua Museum.

"It's not only an iconic building in Rotorua but in Aotearoa. I truly believe it is world-famous."

Mr Maxwell said its consideration now was "better late than never".

"There are places in Rotorua where people go away from them in awe. St Faith's Church is one such place, with its beautiful Maori carvings and placement alongside our marae Tamatekapua.

"St Faith's is a beautiful part of our history and is very deserving of a spot on the New Zealand Heritage List."

St Faith's vestry member Ann Somerville was involved in putting the proposal forward and said the move was "such an important thing for the city and the church".

"It adds to the mana of the church, it gives it the mana it is due."

Ms Somerville said there were moves in the 1960s and '70s to have the church added to the heritage list, but there were setbacks.

"There were all sorts of ups and downs and half-finished applications over the years, mainly because there were concerns and fears that being added to the list would inhibit what we could do with the church in the future.

"We have since been reassured that would not be the case and have been able to push ahead and give this national taonga (treasure) the recognition it deserves.

"A few weeks ago in the visitors' book, someone wrote that St Faith's was where 'faith, art and culture met' and I thought they absolutely nailed it. It is a very special place that is steeped in history and is very dear to the hearts of Ngati Whakaue and wider Te Arawa."

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