1229 Pacific Lodge of Hokitika
Freemason brethren from Canterbury, Nelson and the West Coast converged on Hokitika on 10th April for the first meeting of the Pacific Lodge of Hokitika in over 40 years. Lodge 1299 EC was the first to be consecrated on the West Coast, in 1865, and its history will be revisited during the meeting at the original meetings rooms, now the Old Lodge Theatre. The nostalgic gathering will also include a visit to the Hokitika Museum, where a collection of early memorabilia is kept, followed by a talk on the history of the lodge by honorary member Doug Stapleton. According to the District Grand Lodge of the South Island, the Pacific Lodge of Hokitika 1229 was founded in 1865 but over time as the port diminished in importance and members were lost due to age or transfers, the membership fell and was augmented by joining members from Christchurch. With only a few resident members left it was eventually decided to shift house, and lodge rooms at Amberley were rented for the meetings which had been changed to four meetings a year. When the Freemason's Centre of Canterbury was opened in 1994 the lodge again shifted to meet there. However, it has not met in Hokitika since 1978. Photographs and other early memorabilia was on display and members would also visit the museum to view other items of interest. Mr Stapleton said among the collection was furniture, old minute books and a large oil painting of John Lazar, a prominent Freemason and the Hokitika Borough Council’s first town clerk. Another notable member of the Hokitika lodge was former Premier Richard John Seddon. In 1898, 30 years after he had first joined the Masons, Seddon, then premier, became the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of New Zealand. The Pacific Lodge of Hokitika pre-dates the Grand Lodge of New Zealand by more than 20 years and is one of only several English Constitution lodges left. The former lodge building was sold to the Hokitika Dramatic Society in the mid-1980s and the money derived was gifted largely to Westland High School, Mr Stapleton said. While the membership had declined over the years the Greymouth lodge and the Advance Mawhera Lodge still met in the replica lodge built by Freemasons at Shantytown. The only other lodge on the West Coast is the Phoenix Pacific lodge of Hokitika 1229 returned home to Hokitika after 43 years to be welcomed by heavy rain. John Lazar, District Grand Master Westland in Masonic regalia.