Let’s rebuild Rees’ home

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A descendant of Queenstown founder William Rees is calling for the partial rebuilding of his original Kawarau Falls homestead. 

Rees’ great-granddaughter Rosemary Marryatt is gobsmacked his 1863 colonial-style home on Kelvin Peninsula, near the Kawarau River confluence, was bowled in the late 1980s with barely a murmur of protest. 

“It would be wonderful if the outer shell at least could be recreated or even just the frontage facing the lake so people can see what it looked like and where it was. 

“It was a beautiful typical early colonial villa,” she says. 

“Most probably the cost would allow us to perhaps put the skeleton up, perhaps the outside, and then if it could be filled in, in time, there could be like a mini-museum.” 

Kapiti Coast-based Marryatt, 72, is happy to get the ball rolling. 

“It would involve a lot of money and we’d have to get a few people behind us, but once you start, you never know what might come of it,” she says. 

Earlier this month, Marryatt told Mountain Scene she was shocked that a real estate agency selling Kawarau Falls Station land by the Hilton hotel complex didn’t mention in its information memorandum two remaining stone buildings on the site, built by Rees. 

The small dairy and relocated meat store are in a proposed precinct called Rees Place that was a condition of the hotel/apartment resource consent issued to original developer Nigel McKenna. 

That precinct would also include two original laurel hedges, historic trees, interpretation panels and a footprint of the Rees homestead. 

Rees Place was originally proposed in 2005 by local heritage architect Jackie Gillies. 

Interestingly, Gilles didn’t support the reinstatement of the homestead or associated buildings that had also been demolished. 

Her report states: “It is not intended to recreate or replicate any aspect of the historic buildings which no longer exist since this would confuse the authenticity of the remaining elements. 

“It is intended, however, that the outline or imprint of the floor plan of the house, together with the erection of sculptural forms indicative of certain three-dimensional building elements, will allow a perception of the special nature of the lost homestead.” 

David Clarke, director of Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum and a Wakatipu Heritage Trust trustee, adds: “I’m not sure that I support the facadism of a whole new replica.” 

Clarke stresses he respects Rees’ contribution to Queenstown’s history but suggests funds are better spent saving existing historic buildings from decay. 

His view is Gillies’ proposed Rees Place with interpretation panels would be both a good tribute to Queenstown’s founder and a useful green space within a possible future development. 

Clarke says an example was how the Transit of Venus reserve on Melbourne Street was built into Queenstown’s Millennium Hotel.