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Former role . . . Jane Macknight, pictured in June while still working as the Forrester Gallery director, is still making frequent trips to Oamaru. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

Jane Macknight is no longer in charge of Oamaru’s Forrester Gallery but is keeping a close watch on all the district’s heritage buildings.

Ms Macknight is now the Heritage New Zealand Otago Southland area manager.

“I’m really enjoying it; it’s really interesting,” she told the Oamaru Mail this week on one of her frequent visits from her Dunedin base.

She is liaising with councils throughout the lower South Island as they work on their district plans, advocating for the protection of heritage places.

That was not just buildings, she said. It now included wahi tapu, wahi tupuna and archaeological sites.

“Waitaki has a huge number of listed sites and a lot of archaeological sites. It’s very rich.”

Ms Macknight was pleased the Waitaki District Council had recently appointed a heritage adviser. She would like to hold workshops with the council to discuss her Heritage New Zealand role and the council’s importance in safeguarding its sites.

Workshops with the owners of listed buildings and with the wider community were further possibilities.

Heritage New Zealand was keen to help, Ms Macknight said. It was important to stand up for heritage and encourage others to think about the significance of their sites.

“There’s wonderful potential for Waitaki – recognition of the richness of its heritage, both European and pre-European.

“There are a lot of opportunities to work more closely with iwi.”

Ms Macknight wanted to establish long-term, trusting relationships with iwi across Otago and Southland.

She hoped the lockdown had helped people to appreciate the value of arts and culture.

“It’s part of our humanity.”

For Ms Macknight, a sense of place was central to that.

“In a small town we’re accused of being parochial, and that word is used in a negative way.”

She believed it could also be positive, appreciating that all we need is right here.

Ms Macknight said she thought she knew Dunedin from the trips she made while living in Oamaru for 10 years. However, she has found there was a lot she did not know.

She regards Oamaru as “special” and is enjoying the drive from Dunedin – especially when she comes over the hill by the turnoff to Shag Point and sees the Katiki beach stretching out before her.