|Our Environment: Issue 26 Autumn 2001|
Spearheading the battle to save the former Sydenham Methodist Church is just part of a wide ranging brief for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga. As this countrys leading authority for the identification, care and protection of New Zealands cultural heritage its scope ranges from offering advice to home owners to campaigns to preserve landmark buildings.
The future of the Sydenham church now looks more secure as the Trust helps to set up a community trust which will administer the church once it is purchased using an interest-free loan from the City Council. The Trust will be represented on the new body.
The NZHPT has also been an effective advocate over the years for the retention of a string of local threatened buildings including the Lyttelton Times, Warners Hotel and former Government Buildings in Cathedral Square, the Music Centre of Christchurch in Barbadoes Street, as well as the Nurses Memorial Chapel. Those are the high profile cases. The Trust also carefully reviews notified and non notified applications to alter or demolish a building listed in the City Plan, and often prepares submissions for resource consent hearings.
Generally though, the Trust prefers to be involved at a much earlier stage. Its much easier to come up with a win win situation for both the owner and us if we search for solutions early, says Paul Thompson, the Trusts regional manager based in Christchurch. This approach is in line with the Trusts objective to achieve protection by agreement as a preferred process of cultural heritage management.
Since the Trust underwent restructuring two years ago, Paul Thompson has been responsible for overseeing the Trusts activities in the southern region which stretches from Kaikoura to Stewart Island.
The Trusts functions, set out in the Historic Places Act 1993 include:
Southern Trust staff, based mainly in the Christchurch and Dunedin offices, also work closely with branch committees of elected voluntary members. Canterbury alone has about 3000 Trust members. The Trust owns and manages 13 heritage properties in the southern region. The most significant of these are the Timeball Station at Lyttelton, Fyffe House in Kaikoura and Totara Estate, south of Oamaru.
The Trusts advocacy role is becoming even more important. It means continually highlighting the message that our heritage buildings are important to communities and ways must be found to preserve them. This often involves finding new uses. When that happens, such as the development of a hotel and apartments in the former Government Buildings, the owners and the community are clear winners.
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