Queenstown wine firm fined for damaging historic site

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A GIBBSTON wine company has been ordered to pay $16,000 after illegally digging up an historic site.

Remarkable Wines Ltd was convicted at Queenstown District Court on Monday of contravening conditions of the Historic Places Act 1993.

The firm had successfully applied for consent to create a new wine tasting area on land next to the historic Gibbston Hotel site, on Coal Pit Road.

But it failed to adhere to the conditions of the consent – namely informing the regional archaeologist when the work would begin and allowing him to monitor it.

When Queenstown archaeologist Andrew Winter made a random visit in May last year he found work underway and about 100 artefacts piled on spoil heaps.

Company director Richard Guthrey was caught digging a drainage ditch himself by hand.

Guthrey argued in court that nothing of archaeological value was found – just broken bottles, crockery and tools.

But Judge Michael Turner dismissed his assessment, saying what might appear worthless could be ‘gold’ to an archaeologist.

Judge Turner says: “When we talk about damage what we’re talking about is the loss of opportunity to give context to the items found.”

He added: “To an archaeologist context is key. Without context their value will forever remain unknown.” 

The old Gibbston Hotel site is a recorded archaeological site under the New Zealand Archaeological Association.

The remains of the hotel, built in the 1860s and burnt down in 1912, are next door to the land worked on by Remarkable Wines.

However two stone buildings and two stone walls associated with the hotel are on Remarkable Wines’ land.

In 2006 an archaeological assessment identified the possibility of long-drop latrines and rubbish pits of archaeological significance.

The trust advised the company the site is significant to the local history of the Otago Goldfields.

Auckland-registered Remarkable Wines Ltd was convicted and fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $3,800 for ‘disbursements’ such as the archaeologist’s report, $2500 for prosecution costs, and $132 court costs.