A cultural gem on the banks of the Whanganui River could soon become one of the country's most protected sites.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust is considering whether to list the St Joseph's Convent in Jerusalem (Hiruharama), 64 kilometres north of Whanganui, as a category 1 Historic Place.
The convent was built in 1892 as the base for the order of the Sisters of Compassion, which was founded at the site that same year.
It was home to French missionary Mother Aubert, whose order cared for Maori, orphans and the poor. The case for her sainthood is being investigated by the Vatican.
Another figure to call Jerusalem home was poet James K Baxter who established an alternative community featuring a blend of Maoritanga and Catholicism between 1969 and 1972.
NZHPT researcher Vivienne Morrell said it was this social, cultural, historical and architectural significance that meant they were looking at upgrading it from a category 2 site.
"In the early 1880s, partly due to the request of local hapu Ngati Hau to have their own priest, the site of Jerusalem was chosen by the Catholic Church as the spearhead of a rejuvenated Maori mission," she said.
"Generations of local Maori children went through the school, including Iriaka Te Rio who later, as Mrs Ratana, headed the Ratana movement for some years and was a member of Parliament."
The board of the trust is asking for public submissions before April 3 and a copy of the registration report is available at historic.org.nz.
- Taranaki Daily News
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