Speech to the Wainuiomata Coast Road Church’s 150th Jubilee Celebration

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Thank you to the Wainuiomata Pioneer Church Preservation Society for the invitation to be here today and take part in the celebrations.

I want to pay tribute to the Society and its members for all your hard work over the past decade restoring the Church. The Hutt community is grateful for your passion and enthusiasm.

I was really delighted to be asked to attend this morning. One of my real loves in life is history – particularly New Zealand history - and one of the little personal projects I want to work on as an MP is learning much more about the early history of the Hutt Valley.

In July last year I was asked to help unveil a special plaque laid in Parliament grounds to commemorate James Hector. He was New Zealand’s first government scientist. He emigrated here in 1862. In 1865 he was appointed Director of the New Zealand Geological Survey and Colonial Museum, the forerunners to Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and GNS Science. The museum sat on the site where the plaque is now laid and is of course how Museum St, which is the back entrance to Parliament, got its name.

He really was an extraordinary man. At different times he was responsible for the Meteorological Department, the Colonial Observatory, the Wellington Time Ball Station and Botanical Gardens, the Patent Library, and for custody of the official Weights and Measures.

I said at the unveiling of the plaque, and I say again now, that we are a young country. My strong belief is that we don’t do enough in New Zealand to honour the past; recognise the people and the institutions that helped shape our present; and preserve our heritage.

And that’s what today is all about.

I am proud to say I have a personal connection to this historic church.

On my mother’s side of the family I am descended from seven Dixon siblings that arrived on ships at Petone beach between 1838 and 1856. Those of you who have been to the Basin Reserve may know of the large clock in the old grandstand – that’s the Edward Dixon memorial clock.

My great, great Grandfather Joe Dixon was a peripatetic preacher who used to venture here to preach. He was the son of George and Grace, and he arrived on the Oriental in 1857 at the age of four after being born in Yorkshire. George was an Anglican but his children became Methodists (and also teetotallers – a tradition that continued right to my grandmother and grandfather).

Interestingly, George ran a hotel in Tinakori Rd. One of the history books notes that “statesmen frequented it including the aging Edward Gibbon Wakefield”.

When Joe married in 1863 he was a “Weslayan”.He walked many miles around the Hutt taking services. He sometimes walked over the hill to Wainui, although he usually had a pony and trap when going that far.

My grandfather was a Methodist Minister, the Rev Haddon Dixon. My grandmother used to take me to church – Waiwhetu Methodist - every Sunday. I’m told by my mother that she took my grandmother and her friend to visit this church many years ago, because of the family connection. They spent ages wandering around. Neither my grandfather or grandmother are still alive; but I knew them well and I feel confident in saying they would be exceptionally proud and happy with what has been accomplished here already.

Thank you once again for inviting me to be here today. I’m looking forward to coming to the 200th anniversary!