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Old school . . . Dr Caroline Orchiston and Will Stovall, of the University of Otago Centre for Sustainability, have carried out a study on heritage-based tourism in Oamaru. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

Oamaru’s Victorian precinct has been the subject of a University of Otago Centre for Sustainability study into heritage-based tourism and the buildings themselves.

The Oamaru Heritage Precinct Project, being carried out by Centre for Sustainability acting director Dr Caroline Orchiston and research assistant Will Stovall, investigated the state of heritage-based tourism in Oamaru.

Another element of the project was an assessment of the resilience of the tourism sector and the buildings to seismic activity, with the assistance of researchers from the University of Otago.

As part of the study, Dr Orchiston said, several people linked to the precinct in different ways were interviewed.

“We’ve interviewed anyone with any interest in the heritage precinct. We’ve talked to the [Oamaru Whitestone] Civic Trust here, the tenants in the buildings, hospitality people and tourism operators.”

Tourism Waitaki and Waitaki District Council staff were also interviewed, as well as tourists and local residents.

Questions covered the state of heritage tourism in Oamaru, what had been achieved in the town’s tourism sector, challenges ahead, public interest in heritage tourism, the authenticity of the Victorian precinct and whether appropriate measures were being taken to preserve it.

Participants were also asked about the vulnerability of the precinct’s buildings to seismic activity, and the importance of seismic strengthening.

Mr Stovall said Oamaru was the perfect location for the study.

“Oamaru is a great case study on how a community sees its heritage. It’s something in Oamaru that could be described as unique.

“Eventually, we’ll report on the overall tourist experience in Oamaru and how the locals view the precinct. It will provide us with a model for other tourist destinations that might want to emulate what Oamaru has.”

As a tourism academic, Dr Orchiston said, she was particularly interested in the outcome of the study and how it might help enable and encourage heritage tourism locally.

“The heritage precinct is viewed as unique across New Zealand. Often when things like this are in our own backyard we don’t stop and appreciate what we’ve got,” she said.

“Heritage tourism is really growing, worldwide. We’re putting more value in our heritage, not just in New Zealand but around the world, and Oamaru is part of that.”

She said the study’s findings would be published in research journals, while public presentations could take place if there was enough interest.