The historical landmark Athenree Homestead has risen from the ruins and is finally back to how it was 140 years ago when it was first built by Irish settlers Hugh and Adela Stewart in 1879.
Forty years ago concerned residents in the area formed a trust to restore the home to its original state.
The restoration project has been a long, arduous journey, but thanks to the passion and dedication of so many volunteers over the years, the final stage - a rebuild of the rear portion of the house - was opened on Sunday.
Athenree Homestead Trust chairman Peter Robertson welcomed descendants of the Stewart and Rapley families, volunteers, and guests MP Scott Simpson, Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber, and TECT Board chairman Bill Holland to Sunday's opening.
Patron Helen Clark sent a message read by Terelle Carroll that she was unable to get back from up north, and "hopes the event goes well and looks forward to visiting another time when at Waihī Beach".
Robertson said the trust was formed in 1996 to reinstate the derelict farmhouse to its former self. "This was achieved thanks to the hardworking committee at the time."
He said the rear part of the house was badly deteriorated and couldn't be saved and the remaining building boarded up.
In 2015 Athenree Homestead Trust won the Trustpower Community Award for the district as a result of refurbishing the Athenree Railway Station building. It was converted to house a functioning commercial kitchen enabling fundraising events to be held on-site.
The following year the board decided to rebuild the rear portion of the homestead. An architect was employed to upgrade the existing plans settling on a cost of $350,000.
"We approached TECT and others to fund or partially fund the project. TECT generously met half the cost, for which we are extremely grateful."
The previous board had put aside $70,000 towards the project, but the remaining $100,000 still had to be found.
"We applied to the Lotteries Board but were unsuccessful. However, the committee decided to get the structure built and closed in. We finally obtained a building permit in 2018 and Athenree Builders were available.
"We are extremely grateful for their diligence and understanding over what was to become a two-year period - thank you Ian McConnochie.
"During 2020 we suffered a Covid lockdown. Thanks to many tradesmen and volunteers and the Waihī Beach Community Board for assisting with funds for the sprinkler system, ultimately the project was finished and well within budget."
Simpson said he remembered being invited to a trust AGM when only one room, the front living room had been restored, and saw the huge job that laid ahead.
"Thanks to all your efforts and gritty determination to get the project finished and under budget — this is a job well done."
Before cutting the ribbon to open the final stage of the restoration, Holland said the project was an outstanding example of community achievement to preserve local history.
"There were lots of jars of marmalade to sell - the amount of work that's been done, again is a superb example of wonderful volunteers if you do the mahi."
Ethne Krause, great-granddaughter of Katikati founder George Vesey Stewart, (Hugh Stewart's brother) was among the guests. The 95-year-old said it was nice to see the house finished. "It's marvellous how they lived all those years ago."
Ethne was on the trust committee for five years and helped fundraise by making pots of marmalade, using fruit from the trees Adela had planted.
Di Logan who was one of the early trustees with John Rapley, Snow Brown and the late Ellen McCormack, said she was over the moon with the restoration of Adela's home.
"It is just how it should be — it's fantastic. It is thanks to the contribution of so many people who have come and gone. Everybody has done their little bit.
"John Rapley supported it and Snow Brown had the vision."
John Rapley and his cousin, Valmai Sutton (nee Rapley) were pleased to see the project finished. In 2019 Sutton celebrated her 90th birthday at the homestead.
"My father loved it here."
Sutton sees the homestead as a community asset that honours the history of the early settlers who were all Ulstermen.
Maintenance costs are ongoing for the homestead and Railway tearooms. The committee continues to fundraise with a Mother's Day event sold out and a Classic and Vintage Car Show and Miss Athenree contest planned on May 16, in association with Henry's Rod Shop.