Heritage wake-up call


The Wakatipu’s heritage is now better protected but historic buildings still remain at risk, a new council report says. 

Queenstown’s old buildings are perceived as being more at risk than Arrowtown’s, parties canvassed for the report say – among them the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. 

This is partly because Queenstown lacks a heritage advocacy body such as Arrowtown’s “planning advisory group”, the report adds, and also because development pressure is more intense in Queenstown. 

Yet Arrowtown has a looming heritage threat from its own development pressure. 

“Cribs are being replaced by large family homes which exceed the site coverage rule and reduce the open space/leafy wide street character of [Arrowtown],” the report’s unidentified author claims. 

“There’s concern Arrowtown’s ‘residential historic management zone’ will be compromised through the continuing incremental development of older small homes into larger buildings.” 

In Queenstown, more CBD buildings must be heritage-listed before it’s too late, stakeholders urge. 

Central Queenstown’s three heritage precincts are “currently under the greatest development pressure … where alterations to non-scheduled buildings can affect the overall character of these areas”. 

One heritage precinct encompasses almost the entire Mall, extending out to Cow Lane and Searle Lane. 

Another precinct is on Marine Parade between Church and Earl streets, while the third is bounded by Stanley, Ballarat and Athol streets. 

The heritage monitoring report – tabled at this month’s Queenstown Lakes District Council strategy committee meeting – also recommends a new Arrowtown heritage precinct to protect streets where cribs are prevalent, and a new heritage block encompassing Queenstown’s Park and Suburb streets. 

Demolition rules should be tightened, the report recommends. 

As rules stand, a demolition permit is issued by QLDC’s building department without reference to planning consent staff policing heritage issues. 

“Several pre-1900 buildings have been demolished and heritage and archaeological values lost as a result of this,” the report alleges. 

Even buildings in heritage precincts have been bowled because of the anomaly, it’s claimed. 

Owners shouldn’t be allowed to tamper in any way with heritage-precinct buildings without consent. 

“All alterations within heritage precincts, including partial demolitions and minor alterations, should be required to go through a consent process prior to any demolition or alteration,” the report says. 

Younger buildings also deserve protection, the author recommends, including buildings with 1930s features not presently heritage-listed. 

Heritage watchdogs also need upskilling, with a specialist appointed to the council planning team to eliminate “inconsistency in processing heritage applications”. 

Queenstown & District Historical Society members should receive heritage training “to empower them”. 

And QLDC itself must get the basics right: “For many of the [heritage-listed] buildings, there’s no record of why the building is listed or if parts of the building or features are of particular importance or not.” 

Even some district plan maps “do not clearly indicate the actual sites that contain scheduled heritage items”.