OPINION: Stand up for heritage

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Wakatipu Heritage Trust is dismayed at the removal of a hut and shed from the Arranmore Farm Precinct in Grant Road, Frankton, by the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC), as reported in October 27’s Otago Daily Times. The buildings date from before 1900, and therefore are protected under the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014.

QAC has expressed regret and an investigation is underway.

Whatever the outcome, it is apparent that no regard was paid to those buildings’ heritage status.

Furthermore, the trust has an eyewitness report of two fire training nights in the vicinity of the farm precinct, attended by Rescue Fire and the Fire Emergency New Zealand (FENZ). Separately, a large bonfire was lit which resulted in the FENZ and police attending. We are alarmed by such reckless disregard for heritage.

Obviously, it is now too late for regrets for the demolished buildings, but not yet for the remaining, more substantial and important buildings – the woolshed and the barn.

Many residents don’t realise that the Arranmore farm buildings have a significant history, as acknowledged with Category 2 classifications by Heritage NZ and in Queenstown Lakes District Council’s (QLDC) district plan.

They tell the story of how farming changed in the Wakatipu Basin from the grain-growing of the early years to sheep farming and cropping. The grain-store was converted into a woolshed, and the stable built for teams of Clydesdale horses later became a barn.

Since 2007, the buildings’ owners [the barn is owned by QLDC, the other five are on QAC land] and local heritage groups have discussed their restoration and revitalisation, in particular the woolshed and the barn. Condition reports have been written twice; a feasibility study and a future-use study were completed in 2011.

The remaining buildings can be saved.

Regrettably, there has been a lack of commitment by the owners even to protect the buildings from further decay. Yet, once restored, they could be used in innovative ways.

With this in mind, the trust activated discussions with QLDC and QAC in 2017. In a written submission responding to QAC’s masterplan options, the trust noted that the preservation and reuse of these buildings would be consistent with QAC’s own guiding principles of ‘sustainable, adaptable, affordable and memorable’. The challenge is to integrate the buildings imaginatively into the airport’s assets/activities.

If QAC and QLDC are unwilling to rise to the challenge of preservation and reuse, the Arranmore Farm Precinct could become a reserve and an asset for the entire community.

The remaining Arranmore Farm buildings inhabit an area with established trees. The Wakatipu Heritage Trust believes that with soundproofing they could be actively reused. (A brewery cluster? Community meeting rooms?) They are readily accessible and could be made relevant to the new community that will spring up in the Five Mile area and an asset for the district.

Indeed, QLDC discussed in 2007 establishing an Arranmore heritage trust to take control of the buildings, restore them and establish a future use, adopting the same approach as the Arrowtown Trust with the Buckingham Street cottages.

Both QLDC and QAC need to act before further heritage is lost, whether by accident or neglect or otherwise.

Responses

Airport:

Rachel Tregidga, QAC general manager for property and planning, says: “QAC is taking the removal of the hut and shed very seriously and is awaiting the results of the investigation currently underway. It is important that we undertake that investigation so that we can respond to any learnings that may come out of it. QAC is very aware of the heritage values of the Arranmore Farm Precinct and we reiterate our regret at the removal of the two buildings.

“We have also followed up with the Wakatipu Heritage Trust on the point made about the fire training nights. In the past there have been fire-fighting training exercises undertaken in the area of farmland located between the historic complex and the runway.

“However this is no longer the case, and any training is now undertaken well away from this area. With regard specifically to the bonfire, this was a controlled burn well away from the buildings – it was pre-notified with FENZ and Rescue Fire was in attendance.”

Council:

CEO Mike Theelen says: “QLDC takes the destruction of heritage buildings or buildings close to heritage structures seriously and was very concerned to learn that two historic farm buildings at the Arranmore Farm Precinct had been removed. We will be working closely with the Queenstown Airport Corporation to ensure the remaining buildings are appropriately protected and will also be undertaking our own separate investigations.”