Heritage trumps safety


Quote of the day:

. . . Deaths in earthquakes are somewhat unavoidable. But deaths caused by regulatory structures that force that little value is placed on human life, or that prevent a building owner from tearing down a building very likely to kill a pile of people in a quake, are worse than tragic – they’re stupid. Offsetting Behaviour.

It’s in a post on heritage rules which make some buildings untouchable and how the burden of providing the heritage amenity falls on the owner of the building.

He has a better idea:

I’ve suggested an alternative structure where we run heritage protection as an on-budget Council expenditure. Have each Council decide how much money they’re willing to put into heritage preservation, perhaps have Central provide a matching grant, and open it up to further voluntary contributions from the public. Then, have the heritage boards decide how and where they want to spend the money – paying building owners for the amenities they provide. This would force some consideration of the cost of providing some heritage amenities and focus preservation efforts on where they’re most cost effective. . .

If the public values something private and takes away the rights of the owner, the public must be prepared to pay.

As it stands heritage is trumping both property rights and safety and this is what will happen.

The next step in the fracas that the future of the Harcourts building in Lambton Quay has become is likely to result in Wellington’s own version of the Marie Celeste, that abandoned ghost ship of the Atlantic.

After all the to-ings and fro-ings to get the only commercially viable option of demolition and rebuilding approved, the owner has pulled the plug and intends to cordon off and abandon the building for safety reasons because its heritage value is apparently unique but unaffordable to retain. . .

Buildings will be abandoned, become eyesores and still be dangerous.

Heritage trumps property rights


The Property Council is deeply disappointed with the Environment Court ruling that the heritage-listed Harcourts building in Wellington’s city centre cannot be demolished.

While public safety is an obvious concern, the decision sets a dangerous precedence for all owners of historic buildings and the wider public. It fails to consider the hefty financial cost of upgrading the building to the New Building Standard (NBS), whether feasible or not.

In many cases building owners will have the will, but not the financial ability to carry out structural work when constructions costs can often be higher than the total value of the property. The unintended consequence is for the buildings to remain standing but becoming derelict – creating a greater risk to the public. . .

In a worst case scenario for Wellington, NBS requirements mean that the buildings are left for ‘demolition by neglect’ resulting in large areas of the city left vacant and causing an economic downturn in the affected areas .

Someone with historic buildings on a farm we visited a few months ago is leaving them to be demolished by neglect.

They had a plan to restore most of them but their consent was blocked by a heritage order so now they’re doing nothing and all the buildings will eventually fall down.

“Every main street in every town in New Zealand has a Harcourts type building. The construction cost of the required works would more often than not be higher than the end value of the building,” said Property Council’s Wellington branch president Andrew Hay.

In many cases the same buildings are owned by local authorities and it is in no one’s interest to cripple the finances of small towns simply for heritage preservation.

Wellington’s local government must take into account the rights of property owners in this regard if the health of its commercial property market is to be at optimum.

Property Council calls on the Government to explore financial incentives for property owners of heritage buildings to upgrade their structures to the minimum NBS.

Allowing heritage values to trump property rights without any compensation or assistance towards funding work needed to make a building safe will cause problems all around the country.

Many owners won’t be able to afford to get their buildings up to the required standard and, even if there was a case for public funding, the country’s books aren’t in a state to do so at the moment.

Given that, safety should trump heritage values and owners should be able to demolish buildings which are unsafe.

NZ Whisky gold


The Loan and Merc, which is also known as Fleur’s Other Place*, is housed in an old warehouse in Oamaru’s historic precinct.

However, the restaurant isn’t the only tenant in the building. Upstairs the New Zealand Whisky Company,  is maturing  400 barrels of whisky two of which have won world recognition:

New Zealand has blitzed the field at a United States Whisky Olympiad, in a boost to the region’s burgeoning whisky-making credentials. Two rare whiskies from the New Zealand Whisky Collection won gold medals at the Mid West Whisky Olympics in Michigan, outperforming some of the world’s most revered whiskies from Scotland, Ireland and Canada.

The 10-year-old Dunedin DoubleWood, which is available in Australia through Dan Murphy’s, was crowned World’s Best Blended Whisky. Silver went to Canada’s Crown Royal and bronze to Jamesons of Ireland.

And the 21 year old South Island Single Malt whisky was named World’s Best Single Malt in the same competition, beating the Silver Cross from Michigan’s Journeyman Distillery and Scotland’s Glenlivet 15 year old French Oak Reserve.

The New Zealand Whiskey Collection comprises 400 barrels of stock from the country’s last distillery which closed in the 1990s. It has since been maturing in a South Island seaside warehouse.    Spokesman Greg Ramsay said the wins were a massive endorsement of its quality.

“For the Dunedin Doublewood and South Island Single Malt to beat some of the best whiskies in the world in this competition is testament to their pure, premium ingredients and the craftsmanship with which they were made,” Mr Ramsay said.

“New Zealand is starting to take its rightful place as a producer of some of the world’s great whiskies.”

* Called Fleur’s Other Place because it’s run by Fleur Sullivan of Fleurs Place fame.

Hat tip: Oamaru Life

Wheelman welcomed back


Wheelman David Wilson was welcomed back to Oamaru on Sunday  after riding from Stewart Island to Cape Reinga on his penny farthing Pioneer Spirit.

To ride the length of the country on a modern bike is no mean feat, to do the trip of more than 2,000 kilometers on a penny farthing is even more of an achievement.

The background website for the journey explains:

In 1884 when the Auckland to Wellington journey was usually made by coastal steamer and the main trunk railway was still a dream, the first bicycle ride between the two cities was accomplished by Wheelman J Fitton on a 52 inch-wheel penny farthing. Then, 123 years later during 2007, English Wheelman Joff Summerfield rode his penny farthing from Invercargill to Auckland as part of his around the world tour. Never, however, in the history of the colony has a wheelman been recorded as riding a penny farthing the entire length of the country until now. Conception for this journey occurred in 1998, with tentative planning starting in 2005.

The emphasis on the ride is that of ‘promoting awareness of the immense benefits of community economic and cultural developments’.

This ‘Aotearoa New Zealand History in the Making’ ride is being undertaken by New Zealand Wheelman and Captain of the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club ( OOCC), Mr David (The Judge) Wilson mounted upon ‘PIONEER SPIRIT’, an 1880s-style, 54 inch high-wheeled penny farthing bicycle replica manufactured in Oamaru, with its elevated centre of gravity, solid rubber tyres, fixed pedal system and primitive “spoon” brake. He will be wearing the breeches and knee high socks of the 1880-era bicyclist, and will be carrying only one change of clothes. He will be travelling alone, relying on his own resources and the kindness of strangers for comfort along the way, and will keep a daily log (blog) of the trip at the end of each days ride. The ride will require surviving such modern hazards as bad weather, hunger, thirst, stray animals, poor roads and encounters with inconsiderate and menacing motorists. 


Oamaru Life has a video of his welcome home.

Historic home for sale


One of the beautiful historic homes in our neighbourhood is for sale.

Burnside Homestead was built in the mid 1980s 1890s by John Forrester Reid. It has been owned by only two other families since then. The Hudsons bought it from the Reids in 1930 and the current owners, Alison and Bruce Albiston bought it from them in 1974.

The Albistons have lovingly renovated the house, updating it with heating and extra bathrooms in sympathy with its Victorian origins and maintained the garden and parkland with the mature trees which surround it.

The house has at least nine bedrooms, four bathrooms and two en suites, separate servants quarters, a private bedroom with en suite upstairs, a billiard room, large commercial kitchen and scullery, dining room and the grand octagonal hall with a sprung floor.

The coach house near-by was recently converted to provide two more bedrooms with a kitchen and living area.

Most of the furniture in the house is original and includes a grand piano.

The Albistons have been running the homestead as a B&B  and hosting small conferences.

Burnside is only 15 minutes from Oamaru and only a few kilometres from the route the Alps to Ocean cycle way will take.

The property is listed on TradeMe for private sale.

At the fete


The Queen of Victorian Oamaru with one of her foot soldiers and the Mayor and Mayoress.

Morris dancing.

A day at the races


North Otago is celebrating its Victorian Heritage this week.

Most people who work in the historic precinct dress up to the Victorian theme all the time. During heritage celebrations many locals and visitors also don the clothes our earliest European settlers wore.

Yesterday we spent a very enjoyable afternoon at the gala race day.

Boru provided live music:

The Queen’s guard took a break from guarding to chat to visitors:

While the Queen herself took part in, and won, a celebrity race:


We were treated to fine food from Sally Anne of Fat Sally’s and Portside fame, had  lots of laughs and I made an $8 profit from betting.

Today the historic precinct hosts the annual Victorian Fete and World Stone Sawing championships.

No fires without smokes


Opposition MPs and unions predicted dire consequences when the ban on smoking in prisons was instituted.

What’s actually happened?  Corrections Minister Judith Collins reported there’s been almost no fires since the smokes were banned:

The ban has been in place since 1 July. It followed 12 months of careful planning and preparation by Corrections staff, supported by the Ministry of Health and Quitline.

“I would like to congratulate the Corrections Department for the successful implementation of this policy,” Ms Collins said.

“There has been a noticeable improvement in air quality within our prisons since the ban came into effect.

“Since 1 July there has also been a significant reduction in the number of fire and arson-related incidents. There were only four such incidents in July and one so far in August compared to 18 incidents in the month prior to the ban.

“The result is that our prisons are much safer and healthier places for Corrections staff.”

Labour copped a lot of flack for banning smoking in bars because of the way they did it. Instead of promoting it as an OSH issue for staff – with which it would have been very difficult to argue – they took the nanny-state we-know-what’s-good-for-you approach.

By contrast, the smoking ban in prisons was instituted as a workplace health and safety measure, a by-product of that will be better health for prisoners.

We are amused . .


. . . we are also entertained and amazed by the talent and energy the North Otago community displays in the District’s annual Victorian heritage celebrations.

The programme  includes live theatre, the national penny farthing championships a servants and swaggers dance for the downstairs  folk,  a ball for those upstairs and the annual fete a feature of which is the world stone sawing championships.

The second annual Steampunk: tomorrow as it used to be exhibition at the Forrester Gallery is an undoubted highlight.

Join us in a journey to a distant place and time. A world styled with brass, copper and leather. A steam-powered world of blimps, balloons and coal smoke darkened skies, a magical, miraculous, mechanical world of cogs, levers, wheels clocks and glass gauges. A world that is full of mad and quirky technology. A place where Jules Verne and Monty Python might meet to share a port wine and smoke a pipe at home together . . .

I had a quick look round the gallery yesterday and will return for the long, lingering visit  required to do justice to the exhibits.

Each year more people get in to the spirit of the celebrations by dressing in Victorian clothes.

If you’re anywhere near North Otago, the celebrations provide a very good reason to visit this weekend.

North Otago vs the nuns


Plan by the Dominican sisters to take the altar from Teschemakers chapel have met strong opposition from North Otago.

Supporters of protecting the chapel and keeping its contents are planning to meet on site to stop the first stage of its removal which is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

The altar came from Italy and was donated by the Hart family in 1926.

The sisters own the contents of the chapel but not the building which is on is on a 10 hectare site. The land and a 28 bedroom house were given to the nuns by Peter MCarthy in 1911. He dontated a further 40 hectares in 1918. The McCarthy family maintained a close relationship with, and gave a lot of support to, the sisters who lived there until the property was sold in 2000.

Dr Hirotomo Ochi who bought Teschemakers in 2000 had planned to redevelop the property into an international health science education centre. It was undergoing extensive refurbishment when he died.

The directors of the business which now own the property have abandoned those plans and put the property on the market.

Naylor Love has been contracted by the sisters  Holy Name Parish which has the legal rights to the contents and where the chapel will go, to begin the removal of the marble altar and other fittings from the chapel tomorrow morning.

Many people and heritage bodies in North Otago made submissions to the Dominican Sisters’ Leadership team in Christchurch and the Holy Name parish in Dunedin to retain the chapel with all its fittings and fixtures –  most particularly the altar – based on their heritage value.

It was thought the altar wouldn’t be removed until the end of August and a public meeting was called for next Friday in the hope those concerned about the chapel and its contents could come up with a plan to protect the chapel and keep the contents in it.

Now that dismantling has been scheduled to start on tomorrow, the public are being invited to gather at the chapel from 6am. The organisers hope to prevent the first stages of the removal of the altar and buy time for other legal measures to be explored.

The ODT has an interview with Suzy Scott, nee McCarthy, Peter’s granddaughter here and other stories here and here.

Bringing history to life


Oamaru’s Little Blue Penguin colony had been operating for years before we visited it, and then it was only because we were hosting visitors from overseas.

That’s often the way, tourists know more about local attractions than the locals do.

But I’ve been asking myself why locals don’t support local initiatives because I’ve heard lots of good things about one of Oamaru’s tourist attractions but still haven’t gone to see it for myself.

It’s Living History’s Secrets of the Old Town – walking tours of the historic precinct enlivened by professional actors who become real people from history to tell the town’s stories.

Among the characters are Cranky Kelly, the Scottish Laird and the woman who dared to ask for shoes and those who’ve done the tour tell me they do a wonderful and entertaining job of bringing history to life.

The Living History Players take visitors back in time and behind the scenes to reveal Oamaru’s historic secrets and treasures.

The 50 minute tours leave the Oamaru iSite at 7pm each evening and finish in time to see the penguins come ashore.

I’ve booked to do the tour next Monday and will let you know how it goes. In the meantime, the ODT’s Sally Rae did the tour in January and wrote about it here and there are several online reviews here.

And the castle is . . .


The St Andrew’s Day video of Scotland the Brave generated discussion on which castle was shown.

Richard enlisted the help of the Black Watch forum who came up with the answer: it’s Drummond Castle in Crieff, Perthshire.

It was built in 1491 by Sir John Drummond.

The gardens  look stunning and there are lots more photos here.


Places, buildings, people


The programme for Oamaru’s annual Victorian Heritage Celebrations is so full we’re spoiled for choice and I hadn’t planned to attend the annual *Forrester and Lemon Memorial Lecture.

However, the chair of the local branch of the Historic Places Trust which organises the lecture, was at Wednesday’s races and promised much of it.

She was right. Sir Neil Cossons, who was Chairman of English Heritage, the United Kingdom Government’s principal adviser on the historic environment, delivered a fascinating lecture on recycling heritage buildings.

He spoke of the importance of the relationship beween buildings and places if they are to be enjoyed by people.

He also promised a case of champagne if anyone could help them with the challenge of finding a new use for an old building with ceilings only 6 foot 4 inches high.

Among the audience for the lecture were people taking part in the pre-conference tour for the Australasian Engineering Heritage Conference which starts in Dunedin on Monday.

*Forrester and Lemon were the architects repsonsible for most of Oamaru’s beautiful Victorian buildings.

There’s races . . . Updated


There’s races and there’s the heritage race day which opened Oamaru’s annual Victorian heritage celebrations.

Alf’s Imperial Army stood guard over the official party as Celebration committee chair, Sally Hope,  welcomed the crowd:

There were horses and sulkies – full size with professional jockeys and ponies with young drivers.

The celebrity celebrity race featured Waitaki Mayor Alec Familton, the Wizard, The Queen of Victorian Oamaru and North Otago rugby player Ross Hay, paired with reinsmen.

There was also a race for penny farthings:

Many of the race goers dressed in Victorian finery, some of whom competed for the fashion in the field awards.

The Queen declared the celebrations open with cut-glass vowels and was still smiling sweetly, loyal guardsman at her side, at the end of the day:

The ODT coverage of the day is here.

The heritage celebrations started modestly with a small fete 19 years ago and are now the biggest annual event in the Waitaki District.

This year’s programme includes a Swaggers and servants dance, a ball, the national penny farthing championships and the world stone sawing championships. Celebrations conclude on Sunday with a Victorian fete.

UPDATE: TV3 was at the races too with words and video.

Racing start to Victorian Heritage Celebrations


Forget Royal Ascot and the Melbourne Cup, the not-to-be-missed event of this year’s racing calendar is taking place in Oamaru.

The opening of the annual Victorian Heritage Celebrations will be a combined celebration with the Oamaru Harness Club to mark its 100th anniversary.

dairy 10007

A village green atmosphere will be created at the race course for the twilight race meeting with mini-marquees erected for businesses and the public encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, have a punt, and soak up the atmosphere.

One of the day’s ‘heritage’ features will be an invited drivers race.

In addition to some fine harness racing action, a unique array of events has been planned including the release of 100 homing pigeons to mark the Club’s centennial; a dual Sulky Celebrity Race featuring guests including Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, Mayor Alex Familton and The Wizard; a penny farthing stunt rider and sprint races; a Saddle Pace and a Horse & Carriage Parade.

Victorian dress is encouraged but not required. Racegoers who do dress in period costume will be able to enter  the Victorian Fashion in the Fields competition with attractive prizes. Away from the track and live entertainment, a village tipster and full dining, bar and tote facilities will form part of a grand day out.

The twilight meeting starts at 2.30pm on Wednesday November 18.

Bringing history alive


North Otago is justifiably proud of its beautiful old limestone buildings.

Old, though is relative. Nineteenth century is old in New Zealand, because we’re such a young country. But it’s little more than yesterday when compared with Europe where it’s possible to visit so many more buildings which are bigger, more beautiful and much older.

We can however, give visitors something more, if we can bring the buildings, and our history, relatively recent though it is, to life.

This is the motivation behind Inside Victorian Oamaru.

The concept was revealed at a presentation on Friday which opened with this video:

It continued with an introduction by the steering committee which was interrupted by professional actors who gave us a taste of what visitors might see and hear.

The presentation was brilliant and if the project succeeds it will be even better.

The concept will use 21st century technology to tell 18th century stories and bring history alive for modern audiences.

Visitors will be able to watch a storm in the harbour, 3D will make it seem as if the boat is coming at them, 4D will allow them to feel the wind in their hair and spray on their faces.

You can get a small taste in 2D version of what visitors will see in 3D here.

I was enthralled by the presentation and I’m excited by the potential of the project.

It has been developed by talented people. One of the men behind the concept, and project is Scott Elliffe of Living History, which brings The Great Storm of 1868 to life every summer evening.

The ODT lists some of the others :

Grant Major, who won an Academy Award for production design on Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and also worked on King Kong, Heavenly Creatures, An Angel at My Table and Whale Rider.

Michelanne Forster, an award-winning script writer, Zoe Hobson, of Dunedin-based 38 Pictures, Gallien Chanalet-Quercy, involved in the production of the 3D Experience at the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre at Aoraki Mt Cook, and Hillary Norris, an accomplished New Zealand actor and director, were also involved.

It’s a brilliant idea, they’ve done the homework and put a lot in to getting it to his stage. To go further needs more money though and the Waitaki Development Board has applied for a $2.1 million grant fropm the Ministry of Economic Development to launch the project.

If they get the money, Inside Victorian Oamaru could be bringing history to life within 12 months. That would, in the words of Development Board and Steering Committee chair, Phil Hope, make Oamaru not just a place to drive though, but a place to go to.

Reuse best way to preserve historic buildings


The ODT reports that the Otago Regional Council is seriously considering using the grand old Post Office building in Princess St for its new headquarters.

When the council was looking at options for a new HQ earlier the building was being developed as a hotel. That didn’t eventuate and the developer was bankrupted.

Reuse is the best way to conserve historic buildings and the longer the building is unoccupied the faster it will deteriorate. However, it is rarely inexpensive.

Big wheels & bustles


The end of the four-day penny farthing tour  on Thursday marked the start of Oamaru’s heritage celebrations.

Yesterday dozens of people dressed in Victorian clothes strolled the main street for the annual promenade.

Today’s street parade is a celebration of wheels among which will be a stage coach.

Victorian domestic godess reveals secrets


In the 1800s Oamaru was destined to be a city.

It had a safe harbour, it was on the way to the goldfields, the hinterland was well suited to agriculture and it was a long way from the land wars in the North Island.

It also had a ready supply of limestone which was used to build beautiful buildings.

But the gold ran out, the land wars were settled, the north became more attractive and that early promise of city status was never realised. However, the buildings remained and while a few fell into disrepair and some were demolished, most remain.

A couple of decades ago people began to realise that these buildings shouldn’t just be preserved they should be used and celebrated. The appreciation of the town’s Victorian heritage grew, a few people thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity they provided and the seeds for the annual heritage celebrations were sown.

They’re now an annual event with a growing number of locals and visitors getting into the spirit of the occasion by dressing in Victorian clothes.

Staple events include a penny farthing tour, the New Zealand penny farthing chamionships, the Victorian fete and the world stone sawing championships.

This year’s programme also features a Victorian domestic godess who will reveal the secrets of ensnaring, and keeping, a husband.

. . . those attending could expect to learn about the intricacies of Victorian courtship, sneak a peek into a lady’s boudoir – “where you’ll see some very private things” and discover what a man really wants – “a woman who has skills in every room in the house”.

She will share simple and effective recipes to woo a man – “we all know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” – with the audience receiving a copy of her first and probably last publication – Encyclopedia of Valuable Recipes: a Treasure House of Useful Knowledge for the Wants of Everyday Life.

There may be some men who’d like to go back to those days – and a lot more women who wouldn’t 🙂

Carisbrook wins heritage status


The Historic Places Trust has conferred Category 1 historic status on Carisbrook.

Trust Otago/Southland manager Owen Graham said:

that given Carisbrook’s heritage value and iconic status as a sports ground, alternative re-development options such as creating a public reserve area merited full discussion.

“There is significant scope for sympathetic re-development,” Mr Graham said.

“Although the needs and pressures facing Carisbrook’s owner might result in change to its existing use, it is important to the community that Carisbrook’s character is retained for the benefit of generations to come.”

 The Dunedin City Council had opposed the registration, concerned about the impact it might have on redevelopment options it it succeeds with its plans to build a new stadium at another site. But registration by itself doesn’t offer any protection to Carisbrook.

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