Regular travellers along SH8 may have noticed the site of the old Waitahuna railway station and goods shed beside the Lawrence-Waitahuna highway has suddenly become the hive of activity.
A phased restoration of the buildings has been started by owners Ailsa Rose and Bob Corona, with the support of Ms Rose’s retired parents, Murray and Chris Rose, whose family has farmed at Rutherglen in Waitahuna for more than 100 years.
“Late in 2017 the chimney on the west wall of the station fell down and the roofing tin started to blow off sheet by sheet, so we thought it was time to move ahead with the process,” Ms Rose said.
Mr Corona said that was the crunch point.
“The collapsed chimney and missing roofing had badly exposed the interior of the building, so as we had been mulling over repair or renovation for a number of years, we decided we really needed to finalise what approach we were going to take and get it started,” he said.
The couple’s intention is to preserve the buildings and provide new amenities for the Waitahuna township in association with the future extension of the rail trail cycleway from Lawrence to Waihola.
Ms Rose said her grandmother, Mary Rose, bought the buildings in 1968 when the railway was closed down.
“I feel a bit sentimental about the station building because it was where my grandparents first met.
“We are keen to restore the buildings, to keep them alive, and with the support of my parents, who wish to make a lasting contribution to the community – that’s our plan,” she said.
It would be a comprehensive restoration of the station and involve re-piling and re-cladding.
“Everything will be a like-for-like restoration with the timber cut and milled to the same specifications as it was when it was built.
“We have the original plans and many old photos to work from, and our builder has a lot of experience in heritage restoration work,” she said.
The goods shed was a beautiful building but was in a bad state so was likely to require the most work, including some structural engineering.
The buildings, which are more than 100 years old, are not listed with Heritage NZ, but the couple have consulted the agency on the restoration.
The plan is for the station building to open as a museum with artefacts and stories from Waitahuna’s Maori and European history, and for the goods shed to be redeveloped to provide shelter and light refreshments for cyclists and the general public.