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Pukehiki Church Restoration Project

As anyone passing through Pukehiki will have noticed, the Pukehiki Community Church is currently undergoing a major restoration programme. What started as "replacing a couple of weather boards before repainting", it very soon became apparent that the Church was in serious need of major repairs. Attention is currently focussed on restoring the degraded external shell of the building, rebuilding the bell-tower, and restoring the windows. Below is a rundown of the project up to August 2020.

Background (2007 to 2019)

2007: The historic Pukehiki Church on Otago Peninsula looked to be in tidy condition, though the piles needed attention.

Pukehiki Church

2008/09 saw the repiling works completed and drainage works undertaken

2014: After a 5 year break to repay loans for the repiling and drainage works, a local builder was asked to repair a couple of weatherboards. This opened a can of worms!!

2014/16: Alas everything was found to be in an overwhelming state of decay with a new disaster at every turn. Repairs to the south western part of the church were extensive, highlighting the major renovation task now faced by the Trust relating to the rest of the church structure.

2020 - Stage1 Restoration

After 3 years of fund raising and the preparation of a Conservation Report, work commenced on the staged restoration of the external fabric of the church – to the extent that funds raised would allow (STAGE 1). This covered restoration of the front Bell Tower, re-roofing of the church, and restoration of some walls and windows.

Pukehiki Church Pukehiki Tower

February 2020: With scaffolding erected the Bell Tower could be inspected. Again, deterioration and rotting timbers were found at every turn.

Pukehiki Tower

Pukehiki Tower

Pukehiki Tower

Pukehiki Tower

February 2020: The main support posts of the tower were badly riddled with borer and the windows and louvres badly decayed. The tower needed to be rebuilt.

Pukehiki Tower

March 2020: Tower reconstruction was undertaken, with temporary ply cladding placed for weatherproofing pending restoration of the eight timber louvres and two windows.

Pukehiki Tower

March 2020: Work progressed on to the south-west wall, with removal of the large window for repair

Pukehiki Church Pukehiki Church

The repair of windows and louvres involved precise splicing of new and existing timbers to retain the historic fabric of the church, but new timbers were often required.

Pukehiki Church

March 2020: Work then continued on to the SE walls with more decayed timber found everywhere. Even the arch support (arrowed) was rotten, as was the ceiling sarking that had to be cut back for repair.

Pukehiki Church

Pukehiki Church

June 2020: After a nearly 2 month Covid-19 break, work finally resumed, with a start on the roof replacement (10th June 2020).

Pukehiki Church

June 2020: Completion of the tower was presently delayed pending restoration of the eight tower timber louvres and the two windows.

Pukehiki TowerPukehiki Tower

August 2020: By August, the new roofing and the painting of eaves, fascias and soffits was complete bar a few finishing details. Work on the bell tower, walls and windows was due to resume shortly.

Pukehiki Church

The walls and windows in the photo above are all part of the Stage 2 restoration work (see below).

Looking Forward

The current Stage 1 work is expected to take towards the end of 2020 to complete (See Green below). That will leave approximately half the walls and windows of the church still needing restoration (Stage 2) for which urgent fundraising is now underway to complete the work (see Red below).

Pukehiki Church


Pukehiki Church

The Restoration of Pukehiki Church
- The Work of a Craftsman


At the 5 October 2020 meeting of the Pukehiki Church Trust, it was noted that while the Pukehiki Church was built in 1867/68 by craftsman builder, Walter Riddell, it was equally important in the church’s history to recognise and record how the church was now (2020) being faithfully restored by another craftsman, Stuart Robertson. The following is a snapshot of this latest chapter in the church’s history, and the work of Stuart in his workshop at Sandymount.


The State of the Church, 2020
Despite the Pukehiki Church Trust’s best efforts over 25 years to maintain the Category 2-listed Pukehiki Church, expert evaluation of the church’s condition in 2018 by Salmond Reed, Conservation Architects, found that this past work had been insufficient to prevent the continued deterioration of the church’s condition, to the point that the church had reached a perilous state, showing significant signs of decay. With restoration underway, this became only too apparent, especially around the windows and tower louvres, all of which had to be removed for Stuart’s careful restoration.


Original components and timbers were retained where possible and new timbers carefully spliced in to replace decayed sections:

The tower louvres were painstakingly stripped back, and deteriorated sections replaced, ready then for repainting:

The framing of the large window on the south wall was in particularly bad condition, requiring complete new framing.

Window sections required repair also.

Reconstruction of the large window was a challenging task: First forming the arch sections

Then setting the window components in place:

The completed window frame:

Attention then turned to carefully re-creating the cladding for the tower to the original details, ready for the tower restoration. This required careful planning and preparation including trial construction in the workshop.

Draw full size template:

Make trial fabrication:

(To be continued, with work back on the tower due to commence shortly, as at 14-Oct-2020)