A Christchurch City Council proposal to buy the century-old farm buildings at Mount Magdala, near Halswell, and save them from demolition has been rejected by councillors.
Developer Aidanfield Holdings Ltd has permission to demolish four of the five historic farm buildings to make way for a new housing development, but has not applied to demolish a central brick granary.
The complex of farm buildings is located behind the Halswell Residential School and near the 1912 St John of God Chapel, the former St Joseph’s orphanage and the Mount Magdala Cemetery.
The farm buildings are of historical and social significance as part of Mount Magdala. This was a predominantly self-sufficient community and pioneering Catholic social work institution designed to protect and rehabilitate women. The community was established c.1886 and operated until 1966, when the sisters moved into smaller buildings within the wider community and the complex was taken over by the brothers of the St John of God order.
At its peak in the 1930s Mount Magdala was a self-contained community housing close to 500 people, including orphans, the elderly and women ’in trouble’ because of alcoholism or crime.
The farm provided food for these residents and the farm buildings included stables, farming functions enclosing a central courtyard (a farm-steading) is unusual in the New Zealand context as is the use of brick for constructing farm buildings.