Three Horowhenua Pasifika churches get renovation boon

Free Church of Tonga

Three Pasifika churches in Horowhenua will benefit from renovations under the Fale Lotu Connections Project.

Under the project, the Free Church of Tonga, Samoan Methodist Church, and the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa will jointly receive $1.46 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to make their buildings warmer and better equipped.

The funding was earmarked by the Government in May for renovations and improvements to Pasifika churches around the country as part of its COVID-19 response and recovery plan. It aims to improve facilities for the communities the churches serve, as well as creating jobs.

Mayor of Horowhenua Bernie Wanden says Council was delighted to be leading the project and administering the funds.

‘Enhancing the visibility of these churches will bring greater community pride for the district’s growing Pacific population and create potential for more community and inter-regional events,’ he says.

‘In addition, this Government investment will deliver economic benefits for our district. We expect the project to create up to 10 new jobs across a variety of trades, and we’ll be working with local subcontractors, tradespeople and suppliers so the funding directly supports our local industry as much as possible. Where we can, we’ll fill new positions with people economically affected by COVID-19 and create opportunities for students of the Horowhenua Learning Centre Trades Academy to gain new skills and experience.’

Rob Fifita-Tovo, Fale Lotu Connections Project Team representative for the Free Church of Tonga, says Church members were ‘over the moon’ about the renovations.

‘The Church is the highest priority for the people of Tonga and is a place where members spend a lot of time together. Having the Church and hall renovated means we’ll have modern, warm facilities that will provide more options for hosting events and other congregations,’ he says.

The funding will enable the Free Church of Tonga to carry out a range of improvements, including installing heat pumps and insulation, better lighting and new windows and doors. It will also repair or replace the hall roof and ceiling, replace cladding, lay new carpet, paint exteriors and interiors, and improve security.

Reverend Asora Onesemo of the Samoan Methodist Church says, ‘This funding from the Government is a very big blessing for our congregation and our community, who will benefit from the upgrades to the church and facilities. A big thank you to Horowhenua District Council, who helped make this possible and assisted us with the process. We are so grateful and appreciate the blessings we have received.’

Improvements at the Samoan Methodist Church will include replacing worn floor coverings, installing heat pumps, repairing and repainting the roof, and installing a commercial standard kitchen and improved fencing.

Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (EFKS) Reverend Elekana Mose-Tuialii says the funding would allow more groups and organsations to hold events that would benefit the Pacific community.

‘The Church building is a safety sanctuary for our Church members and their families. This is where we naturally gather as a village community, and a better renovated building means we don’t need to worry about the deficiencies of our building,’ he says.

‘We are grateful for the partnership of Horowhenua District Council, the Provincial Growth Fund, the Project Team and the contractors working together to make this important work happen.’

The Congregational Church would be able to redesign its buildings to provide better functionality for the church and more hall space for Church Group and community activities, as well as improved toilet and kitchen facilities.

Renovations begin in late October and are expected to be complete by April 2021.