Whangaroa's Catholic community is rallying to save its nuns following a decision to shift their convent to Kaikohe.

Marist sisters have been based at Waitaruke, a settlement on State Highway 10 north of Kaeo, since 1928.

However, the order plans to move then to Kaikohe so they can serve a wider area, saying it has to make the best use of its dwindling number of ageing nuns.

Parishioner Jeanette Kinneally said the move did not make sense.


The church owned land and buildings at Waitaruke but would have to buy a house in Kaikohe.

She had collected more than 400 signatures asking the order to let the sisters stay, with the petition due to be presented to a representative of the Marist sisters over the weekend which has just passed.

Mrs Kinneally suspected the decision had been made, but the petition would show the nuns - Sisters Margarita, Isabelle and Catherine - how much support they had.

"The response, even from other denominations, or from people who proclaim to have no faith, has been very supportive of the sisters being here. There's a real groundswell."

Mrs Kinneally said the sisters gave advice, visited the sick and offered religious education in schools.

Sister Gemma Wilson, a leader of the Marist order in New Zealand, said the decision to move the sisters had been made only after much discernment.

All sisters in the country had been involved, including those at Waitaruke.

Moving the sisters to Kaikohe would allow them to be shared over a wider area with the order's limited resources.


"We have fewer and fewer able-bodied sisters, and we want to use them in the best way possible."

Sr Gemma said she had been overwhelmed by the love Whangaroa people had shown for their sisters, and their desire to have the sisters stay was understandable.

They would still visit families and attend tangi in Waitaruke.

Sr Margarita is 92 and will not go to Kaikohe. Instead she is likely to move into Kauri Lodge, a Kaeo resthome.

Sr Isabelle, 82, is involved in religious education at schools around Whangaroa and the Bay of Islands. The youngest, Sr Catherine, is not yet 70.

The Catholic school adjoining the convent, Hato Hohepa Te Kamura (St Joseph the Carpenter), will not be affected by plans to move the nuns.


The next closest community of Marist nuns is in Auckland.