Volunteers will have a chance to learn how to conserve Māori arts as they help restore the ornate interior of St Paul's Memorial Church in Putiki.

Stage two of the work starts in Whanganui on January 22, members of the church's restoration trust, Huia Kirk and Margaret Tauri, said. It's the most exciting bit - sprucing up the carved, painted and woven interior.

They're hoping local people will get involved, learn useful skills and become part of the church whānau.

"We just want the best for it, and the best work done. Those who work on the church become woven into the fabric of the church."

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Volunteers on scaffolding will scan and repair kakaho insulation and painted kowhaiwhai panels on the ceiling. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Volunteers on scaffolding will scan and repair kakaho insulation and painted kowhaiwhai panels on the ceiling. Photo / Lewis Gardner

Restoration starts with wānanga for the core group of workers and any other volunteers to learn new conservation skills. They have to be able to climb scaffolding and will need a steady hand and a keen eye as they scan panels and carvings for borer, rust and mould.

The work will take about two months, with people able to come and go. Heritage New Zealand Māori heritage experts Dean Whiting and Jim Schuster will teach techniques during the first weeks. Whiting did the restoration plan, along with Whanganui's Wendy Pettigrew and Bruce Dickson.

Conservation skills could be useful at other Whanganui marae, such as Koanga Rehua near Pipiriki, or elsewhere in New Zealand. Many marae are reaching an age where restoration is needed, and the skills are hard to come by.

"It would look good on your CV too," Tauri said.

The interior of the church will be restored in three sections, with scaffolding installed in the sanctuary first. Any cleaning will be done with non-ionic detergent, worn paint on kowhaiwhai panels will be touched up and carvings will be cleaned with a toothbrush and a soft cloth.

Woven tukutuku panels will also need some refreshment. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Woven tukutuku panels will also need some refreshment. Photo / Lewis Gardner

Trina Taurua has already worked on some of the woven tukutuku panels.

Stage one of the restoration was all exterior work - especially replacing the roof and what was under it - a sprinkler system, wiring and smoke alarms. Then the trust "paused for breath", talked to supporters and raised money for the next stage.

St Paul's is the fifth church on its site near Putiki Marae. It has a plain exterior and was built in 1937 by Arthur Cutler. The carvers were Hohaia (Joe) Mokaraka, Hoani (John) Metekingi, Pinemine (Pine) Taiapa, Iotua Taringatahi (Charlie) Tuarau and Wi Te Parihi, with Oriwa Haddon painting kowhaiwhai panels.

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The interior was ornately woven and carved, at a time when Sir Apirana Ngata was encouraging the revival of Māori arts and crafts.

Margaret Tauri (left) and Huia Kirk head up the charitable St Paul's Memorial Church Putiki Restoration Trust. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Margaret Tauri (left) and Huia Kirk head up the charitable St Paul's Memorial Church Putiki Restoration Trust. Photo / Lewis Gardner

The church is a Whanganui taonga and about to become a category 1 listed Heritage New Zealand historic place. It has regular services and tours of it can be arranged at Whanganui's i-SITE.

+ People who want to help with the restoration can contact Margaret Tauri on 345 6497.