Kerikeri residents are being urged to keep an eye on their historic treasures after the organ at one of Northland's oldest churches was damaged.
St James Church, built in 1878 just up the hill from the Stone Store, is unlocked during the day for visitors who want to learn about its history and locals who want a place of quiet reflection.
The organ, however, is normally locked up — except after Christmas Day, when priest Stan Pilbrow said it was inadvertently left unlocked.
''We know that young men got in and were tutuing [playing around] with the organ. A lady told us she had been going for a walk, heard noises coming from the church, and saw young men hanging around the organ. They left when she enquired what they were doing there.''
Since then the organ had not worked properly. It could still be played but made a constant, low-pitched growling sound, Pilbrow said.
Unfortunately, the country's only organ repairman lived in Oamaru so it cost a lot to get him to Kerikeri outside his usual organ-tuning schedule.
Pilbrow said one of St James' regular organists had carried out a temporary fix but had to disable a few of the lowest-pitched pipes to do so.
''So we managed to have a sing-along last Sunday. We're getting by but it's not ideal. We do need to get the organ fixed,'' he said.
''It's really disappointing. Apparently it's happened once before but a long time ago.
Because we had one little slip-up, by not locking up the organ, this incident happened.''
The church had become a ''quasi tourist attraction'' so he was reluctant to lock it between services.
''People like to visit, read the history and sit inside,'' he said.
The church Vestry Committee would meet to discuss what further security measures, such as installing cameras, could be taken. A security guard currently calls in to the church twice a day to lock and unlock the building.
John Jackets, one of the church's four organists, said the instrument was fine during Christmas Day services but ''sounded terrible'' two days later on Sunday.
''I don't believe the damage was intentional. They were probably just having a play around, not knowing how vulnerable organs are.''
Jackets said music played an important part in church life and the organ had only recently been refurbished using parishioner donations.
Pilbrow appealed to Kerikeri residents to help keep an eye on the historic church, and let him or police know if something wasn't right.
It was not yet clear what the repairs would cost.
It meant less money would be available for other purposes such as church maintenance or mission work in the Pacific Islands.
St James turns 143 years old this year. New Zealand's oldest surviving church, Christ Church in Russell, was built in 1835 and still bears scars from the Battle of Kororāreka in 1845.