Consultation ahead for St Patrick’s Olive Leaf site in Arrowtown

4 minutes read
Posted 12 February, 2024
olive leaf 12 HRS 1

The Olive Leaf Centre design

Proponents of Arrowtown’s controversial Olive Leaf Centre, next to St Patrick’s Catholic Church, are open to listening to the community about what they would like to see on the land, Centre Trust chair Colin Bellett says.

The Trust appealed the decision from independent commissioners turning down the application for the multi-purpose parish and community centre in 2020. In October last year an Environment Court decision rejected the appeal.

“We’re more than happy to look at any variations to Fred van Brandenburg’s design once we can clarify what’s allowed, and what’s not, on the site,” Bellett says. “We’re now looking at how we can satisfy the (Queenstown Lakes) district council’s requirements. A variation to the design is entirely possible.

“It’s cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars so far, much of that in council processing costs. We all love the old church. Our supporters have spent a lot of money on this proposal, thinking people would love it, and Fred – an internationally-acclaimed architect has done all this pro bono.

“We are so proud of his international design award and that he’s been recognised as one of the top 100 architects in the world. This is an outstanding achievement by one of our parishioners.

“His design for our proposal for the parish hall, (Olive Leaf Centre), is a very different and significantly smaller and more modest building than the one for which he received the award. However, the Olive Leaf is also inspired by nature and nature's architecture.

"It's a shame that Fred's outstanding talents are celebrated overseas but we haven't been able to get consent to build his design locally.”

He says they just want the people of Arrowtown to embrace a new building for the site “as otherwise it’s a wonderful gift that’s been rejected”. “It could be wonderful for kids, mothers, and fathers, heading into the future – a fabulous building at no cost to ratepayers.”

Bellett says the idea of a building was first presented to the parish almost eight years ago as a nice idea for the site to help preserve the historic church’s structure and provide a venue for church and community functions, even church weddings. Revenue raised could help fund any future plans for earthquake strengthening of the historic church too, he says.

Bellett, 85, has been an Arrowtown parishioner for 40 years and with builder friends, including Ron Inder, helped repair and rebuild the historic St Mary MacKillop Cottage on the site beside St Patrick’s in the 1990s. With church demographics changing worldwide, he says it’s long been his passion to not just make a beautiful building on that stie, but to provide “a community building for the church and beautiful resource for the community”. “It would be almost fatal for the future of the church and the parish not to do something on that site,” he says.

Arrowtown Planning Advisory Group chairman David Clarke says he’s sure the community would support “an appropriate design” on the site and he understands there will be some discussion about that soon between his group and the church parish committee.

“The council and then the Environment Court turned it down. It was an inappropriate design for a heritage town,” he says. “It’s cost thousands of dollars. We hope a solution can be found that’s suitable for the needs of the church and appropriate for that site.”

St Joseph’s Parish Finance Committee chairman Michael Tierney says they have not yet canvassed the St Patrick’s Church community’s views but one idea for the site was to renovate the old St Patrick’s Presbytery Cottage.

“The Environment Court has made a very clear ruling that no building that threatens the supremacy of the historic church would be allowed,” he says. The historic St Patrick’s Church is a Category 2 heritage listed building, and he says any required earthquake strengthening will happen in due course. “However, there are no plans to spend money on that right now or on any other new building on the land at St Patrick’s Church.”

Susan Rowley, who chairs the No Leaf Incorporated Society which opposed the Olive Leaf proposal and sits on the church finance committee, says since the Environment Court dismissed the appeal in October there has been a period of reflection and reassessment about what could be appropriate to enhance the church.

“The current St Patrick’s Church Presbytery cottage on the site does not meet the needs for a modest gathering space and is in poor internal condition, so we are poised to enter a phase of genuine consultation and planning with our parish community in the next few months to see how this cottage could be suitably renovated,” she says.


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