Oamaru’s reputation could soon be enhanced with national historic landmark status.
Otago Southland area manager Jane Macknight has confirmed the organisation wants to include Oamaru’s historic area – including the Victorian precinct and the central business district – in the national historic landmarks list.
National historic landmark status, an initiative established last year, aims to help protect New Zealand’s defining moments in time and the special places that are the cornerstones of national identity, and assist in prioritising the Government’s heritage conservation efforts.
At present, there is only one place on the list – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The Oamaru Mail understands Oamaru is one of five places being considered to be added.
“The purpose of the landmarks list is to promote an appreciation of the places of greatest heritage value to the people of New Zealand. It is also to promote the conservation of these places, including their protection from natural disasters,” Ms Macknight said.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said there was “extra value and extra opportunity” in landmark status, and he hoped it would result in more central government funding to safeguard Oamaru’s buildings.
“We are pushing that argument that if we have something that is notable as a national landmark then the nation should assist in helping to look after that,” he said.
“Something from the Government’s coffers would be welcome and something we are seeking.”
Oamaru’s heritage buildings were a major visitor attraction, he said.
“We are a place known for looking after heritage in general . . . if we didn’t have that going on you wouldn’t see this [landmark status] recognition going on.”
Similar to national parks, national landmark status would help draw more visitors to Oamaru, he said.
“It says collection of amazing built heritage and a lot of stories in behind them which are worth coming here for’.”
The ultimate decision to include Oamaru in the list lies with the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. At present, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds that role. HNZ would also be consulting with the council, property owners and the public on the proposal in the coming months, Ms Macknight said.
Last week, plans to demolish Macallan House were confirmed, raising the ire of heritage advocates.
Building owner Christopher Paul gained the right to tear down the 139-year-old Thames St building last year, after a legal dispute with the council over the upper-storey facade. The council wanted the facade to be kept intact, but Mr Paul argued for full demolition.
“I would have kept the building as is if I could have easily earthquake-proofed it, but . . . it would have been a nightmare,” he said.
“In the end, I am pretty sure people will be pleased with [the new building].”
The building’s demise raised questions around whether the council should legislate for greater protections for heritage buildings within the district plan.
Mr Kircher confirmed the council’s district plan review would likely strengthen the rules around protection of heritage buildings, while still ensuring they could be adapted for modern use.
“When the draft plan goes out it will likely show more protection for more buildings,” he said.