FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd

Posted in New Zealand, Tekapo by folkestonejack on January 3, 2016

The shore of Lake Tekapo has been home to the Church of the Good Shepherd since 1935, which is probably the most heavily photographed church in New Zealand today (not least because it is a regular stop for coaches on their way to Mount Cook). A beautiful little church in a wonderful location.

Church of the Good Shepherd

Church of the Good Shepherd

I made my first visit to the church in August 1998 when there was still very little to get excited about in Tekapo, so I was a little surprised to see how much development has gone on in the past 18 years. An alpine village with hotels, shops and restaurants is all new since my last visit and further construction is underway. It’s all a part of a massive increase in building consents for Tekapo that shows no sign of abating (the article Tekapo’s Big Bang moment: why a sleepy village is taking off usefully explains the background to this). Nevertheless, it was a shock to see the density of the new construction and how this has encroached onto the grass domain that leads down to the lake.

Thankfully, the church hasn’t been swallowed up by development (although I don’t recall seeing the massive car park when I last visited) and still sits in an undisturbed setting of tussocks, matagouri bushes and rock.

The church was the first to be built in the Mackenzie Country with the foundation stone laid by HRH the Duke of Gloucester on 15th January 1935. The wild setting is not unintentional, for the builders were instructed to leave the rocks and matagouri bushes in place where they stood. Moreover, the stones for the wall were all gathered from within five miles of the site. It has become a very popular point on the tourist trail, though the 300,000 visitors a year has generated a few drawbacks.

I wandered down to the church a little before 6am to get a view of the church and the surrounding scenery just after sunrise (not that there was any noticeable difference on a cloudy morning like today). It was lovely to see the church with hardly a soul around, though that must be an increasingly rare experience!