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Beef stock chipped in for Dargaville church

By Hazel Simpkin

The Mount Wesley Methodist (Farm) Trust Minute Book of the Dargaville Circuit records a somewhat unusual moneymaking effort by a band of hardworking members of the church. It seems the impetus for the idea came from Norman Vallance after it came to the notice of church officials that the Home Mission Board was prepared to lease 26 acres at Mount Wesley, the site of the old Mission Station.

In January 1959 the Dargaville Circuit was granted a five year lease at a rental of ?215 per annum, and the Trust started the work which was to continue for 28 years. Some interest free loans were made by local church people, 10 Jersey heifers were bought, and the church farmers were in operation.

The Trust members were good husbandmen of the land. Over the years they fenced, bridged drains, applied topdressing and did roading and other work. Much of this work was done by voluntary labour, though the Home Mission Department supplied some of the material.

Though it was the land with its potential for generating an income which particularly interested the Trust members, there were also two old houses on the property, the large former Methodist parsonage built in 1892 and a smaller, somewhat neglected cottage. These had both been rented but finding suitable tenants plus maintaining the buildings had become a burden. As soon as the Trust took charge the cottage was renovated to a habitable state for the use of the deaconess Mary Sealey and later Barbara Miller, but the state of this building was an on-going problem. Eventually it was demolished.

In 1964 Jim Tasker joined the Trust and became a member of the farm committee. Jim later became farm superintendent, and over the years gave freely of his time and knowledge. He changed from Jersey heifers to beef stock, and sometimes made good profits.

The profits gradually built up and in 1965 the Trust lent ?350 to the Church Trust so it could purchase the house next door to the parsonage. In 1967 their credit balance stood at $1864, and they were carefully investing to earn the best interest rates.

The chief objective of the Farm Trust was to raise money to finance the building of a new parsonage. But the aim changed when it was necessary to give serious consideration to replacing the old church, which opened in Mangawhare in 1879 and survived a move to Dargaville in 1929.

The Trust realised helping to build a new church should take priority over the new parsonage. In 1986 it was decided that $50,000 plus accrued interest was to be paid to the Dargaville Methodist Church towards the cost of the new building, so indeed the Trust members could feel that the farming venture had made a substantial contribution to the new church. Later the Trust handed over $20,000 for the Circuit Development account.

In 1987 the time of the present lease was running out and the Trust learnt that the local Maori Committee of the Home Mission Department was interested in taking control of the property and farming it on their own behalf. In the light of this information the Farm Trust decided that they would withdraw from any arrangements to enter into a new lease.

This Trust was formally dissolved at the meeting in October 1987 and the $20,758 they held was paid over to the Dargaville Circuit. The Trust members past and present were thanked for their devotion and service, with particular mention of Bert Schick and Viv Berridge who served for the 28 years the Trust was in operation. A tribute was paid to Jim Tasker for his efficient running of the farm. Norman Vallance whose idea was responsible for this extended fundraising operation didn’t live to see the opening of the new church, but he and other members of this Trust would have been very pleased to see the result of their labours in this farming undertaking. All these men had used their talents in the service of their Lord, and to his glory.

Note: The Mount Wesley Methodist Trust Minute Book and other documents in the Auckland archives have been used in the writing of the above. Judith Herbert of the Dargaville Church has recently written a more detailed account of this venture.