Victorian cycle shopt to shut

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Oamaru’s penny farthing expert David Wilson has announced he will be closing his store, Oamaru Cycle Works 1882, this weekend.

Mr Wilson, who has had the shop in the Victorian Precinct for four years, said he was closing the store on Sunday because the precinct was heading in a different direction to what had originally been planned.

The original idea, developed in the 1990s, was for a precinct which focused on the Victorian era, with various attractions including a working blacksmith, daily vintage train rides, and a horse drawn carriage museum with rides, he said.

“That is what many of us were excited about.”

The buildings were there, but the community wanted to encourage people to have an authentic experience rather than just looking at the buildings, he said.

“Disappointingly, none of this is now happening, which is why I have decided to close,” Mr Wilson said.

The original ideas were supported by the local Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Waitaki and the Waitaki District Council, however with time, there had been less significance placed on having the Victorian experience in Oamaru, he said.

“New people come into jobs that don’t understand the length of time that Oamaru has been working on the project.

“It is moving in a different direction.”

He would certainly be interested in helping to revive the project if there was a will among the organisations, he said.

“I think there needs to be a refocus on growing the community partnership again.

“I would say on the one hand I am disappointed, but on the other hand, when Oamaru started on this precinct, it was derelict and now it is restored and that’s very impressive.”

Mr Wilson said he would be spending more time focusing on his consultancy company, which works with historic towns to set up regional development.

This will involve spending time in Victorian gold fields inland from Melbourne.

However, he said he would remain based in Oamaru.

Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Peter Garvan said the trust owned the building and, while they had not made a formal decision, they would be trying to find new tenants.

“It won’t remain vacant,” he said.

Only a viable Victorian business would be considered, as the trust’s policy was to have businesses that were commercially viable, open seven days a week, Mr Garvan said.

Having a limited tourist season and a small population meant it would be difficult for many Victorian-style businesses, he said.

The trust was committed to having a mix of tenants in its buildings, including those of a Victorian nature, Mr Garvan said.

“[Mr Wilson] made a wonderful contribution but our duty is to find new tenants that are exciting and can add to the vibrancy of the precinct.”

Local artist Donna Demente said she was sad the store was closing, as businesses like Mr Wilson’s were the things that make the place unique, and he was a very enthusiastic supporter of heritage in the area.

“It is a real tragedy,” she said.

“To me, it does seem like [the precinct] is becoming more business-orientated.”

Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher and Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill declined to comment when approached by the Oamaru Mail.

By RUBY HARFIELD

PHOTO: RUBY HARFIELD

CLOSING SHOP: Oamaru Cycle Works 1882 owner David Wilson will be closing his store this Sunday.