One of Oamaru’s signature visitor attractions is reopening tomorrow.
Whitestone City is being brought back to life by the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, which owns the building it occupies in lower Harbour St.
Created as an interactive tourism attraction in a joint venture between the trust and Tourism Waitaki, with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Whitestone City opened in May 2017 and was closed by Tourism Waitaki on March 20 this year due to falling visitor numbers.
Trust chairman Graeme Clark said the reopening was an opportunity to showcase all aspects of the district’s heritage.
It celebrated the art, music, technology and products that contributed to life here, he said.
“It’s an amazing facility. We want to work with Tourism Waitaki, the Waitaki District Council, North Otago Museum, Forester Gallery, Oamaru Library and all businesses in Waitaki.
“It’s a facility the community can use and take ownership of it.”
The huge premises are fitted out with a Victorian-themed street with a dispensary, barber shop, general store, architect’s office and newspaper stand. Victorian costumes are on display and can be donned by visitors, a playground features period pastimes such as croquet, and a carousel contains penny-farthings that can be ridden.
The trust intended to become the custodian of the building’s contents, he said.
A team of “willing volunteers”, including some who used to be paid staff at Whitestone City, would greet visitors and guide them around the multiple sites.
Mr Clark hoped local residents would go along.
“We’re asking the community what they think. We want their ideas and stories.”
He was keen to incorporate the district’s hydro-electricity industry, the frozen meat industry that was pioneered in the district and was still its main employer, and the district’s viticulture and horticulture.
And although Victorian elements featured strongly, it was important to include steampunk.
Mr Clark, who has been involved with the trust for 30 years, urged people to take a fresh look and perhaps to volunteer.
Whitestone City will be open daily from 10am to 4pm, with entry by donation. The first fortnight, coinciding with the school holidays, would be used as a trial to gauge interest.
Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro said it was great Whitestone City would open again. It would help to enliven Harbour St, Mrs Munro said.
If the trust could re-establish the attraction it would be an excellent accomplishment, she said.