Sir Neil Cossons stands behind an exhaust pump at the Dunedin Gasworks Museum yesterday. Photo by Gerard o'Brien.
Heritage restoration seems to have a renewed energy in
Dunedin, heritage historian and Dunedin Gasworks Museum
patron Sir Neil Cossons says.
Sir Neil, visiting from England, is keynote speaker at the
three-day Heritage Impact 150 symposium, marking the
gasworks' 150th anniversary, starting on Thursday.
Sir Neil was particularly impressed by ''superb'' restoration
work in the Exchange, such as the Bank of New Zealand
building, and the warehouse precinct, which last time he
visited, about four years ago, looked ''sad''.
''For someone who only comes intermittently, there's a
feeling that Dunedin's on the up.''
Dunedin's historic area was fragile because of the number of
gaps, and there were only so many ''missing teeth'' an area
could sustain before people stopped believing in its heritage
Heritage development in Dunedin was an example of a trend
towards restoring areas, rather than being focused on
individual buildings, he said.
The general public increasingly valued heritage areas for
their ability to live, work, and socialise in them, rather
than being fixated on the architectural value of particular
buildings. He did not believe every old building had to be
saved, but developers needed to consider potential for
re-purposing them instead of pulling them down.
''A building in use is a building which has a future.''
Heritage buildings need not be a brake on progress and
development, he said.
Cities needed good central plans to guide heritage
development, as well as continuing to listen to developers
and community ''visionaries'' whose passion was essential to
make things happen.
Attending the 150th anniversary celebration was very special,
as there were only a handful of surviving gasworks in the
world. Dunedin was New Zealand's last city to close its gas
production plant, in 1987.
Sir Neil is visiting Christchurch today to meet heritage
advocates before returning to Dunedin.
His keynote address is at 7pm on Thursday, at the University
of Otago's Castle 1 Lecture Theatre.
Members of the public are welcome to attend.