Recognition . . . Casa Nova House owners Brenda Laverick (left) and Katrina McLarin celebrate the buildingÂ’s 160th birthday and its inclusion as a Heritage New Zealand category 1 listed building. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

The results of a long and painstaking restoration of Oamaru’s oldest stone mansion are “spectacular”, Heritage New Zealand chief executive Andrew Coleman says.

Casa Nova House owners Brenda Laverick and Katrina McLarin could not let the 160th year of the mansion go by unrecognised, and tied the celebration in with the unveiling of a plaque that recognised the building as a category-1 listed heritage property.

A small celebration was held at the Alt St estate on Monday afternoon with 30 guests, including representatives from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT), the Waitaki District Council, Tourism Waitaki and the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust.

Visitors were treated to a bagpipe welcome from Stewart Graham, whose parents had owned the property in the 1960s.

Casa Nova was built in 1861 by Englishman and early runholder Mark Noble and is the earliest mansion to be built with the local limestone.

Owners Ms Laverick and Ms McLarin, who bought the building in 2019 after falling in love with it while on holiday from the North Island, have spared no expense restoring it.

It had not been a “glamorous journey” and the added stress of Covid-19 affecting plans had made it “difficult, stressful, and financially draining” time for them, they said.

They opened the home for luxury bed and breakfast accommodation upstairs in May, while Restaurant 1861 was opened downstairs in October.

Having the building recognised on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero was important, and “an acknowledgement of the house’s long-standing history” within Oamaru, the pair said.

Mr Coleman said people only had to “unpack its history, and its design, and its whole construction” to recognise Casa Nova was “very significant” in New Zealand’s history.

“If you think about the importance of limestone and Oamaru stone through this region, knowing that’s the foundation of many of the buildings here … so you know, regionally it’s really important.

“But then its style and its architecture too, it’s a beautiful building.

“We look for 13 different characteristics for heritage, and this met many of them, which meant that the Listed Category 1 was pretty easy for the board to decide. It’s so very prominent in the region, and in New Zealand as well.”

Mr Coleman thanked both Ms Laverick and Ms McLarin for the interest they had taken in the building, and the “care and attention and dedication” they had taken in restoring it, despite “Covid adversity”.

“What a spectacular thing you’ve done.”

He also thanked the Waitaki District Council and Whitestone Civic Trust for investing in heritage, describing them as one of the “shining lights” in heritage preservation in the country.

When people asked him where in New Zealand had the “best heritage fabric”, he pointed them in the direction of Oamaru, he said.