Upper Clutha Historical Records Society president Graham
Dickson outside the old police cell in Dunmore St, Wanaka,
he would like to see used as a museum. Photos by Mark
Wanted: One ''champion'' to establish a Wanaka museum.
That, according Upper Clutha Historical Records Society
president Graham Dickson, is the first thing Wanaka needs if
it is ever to have what most other towns in Otago have - a
museum where local historical material is easily accessible
to its residents.
The idea of a museum has been discussed for years and was
raised again with the Otago Daily Times by amateur
historian Richie Hewitt recently.
Mr Hewitt has devoted many hours to researching and recording
the Maori history of the Upper Clutha and his written
material fills shelves at the Wanaka Library.
The historical society also uses a room at the library to
store its paper and photographic material.
However, Mr Hewitt believes Upper Clutha residents are
missing out by not being able to see the artefacts that have
been found in the region.
One of the artefacts that could be displayed if Wanaka had
a museum in which to display them. The claw of an extinct
Haast eagle is pictured in the hand of Richie Hewitt, of
He cited a waka paddle found at Hospital Flat, West
Wanaka, and blankets made by Upper Clutha Maori, which are
housed at the Otago Museum in Dunedin.
''This is their home,'' Mr Hewitt said indicating Wanaka.
Mr Hewitt was aware of a family with a Maori adze and another
with an ''extensive collection'' of Maori artefacts.
He was also aware of a gold nugget with an interesting story
behind it that a Wanaka resident was willing to put on
While he was building up a photographic record of Upper
Clutha artefacts, Mr Hewitt believed that was not enough.
''We need a museum; a place to display them,'' he said.
Wanaka is represented to some degree at the Lakes District
Museum in Arrowtown. But Mr Hewitt believed Wanaka artefacts
belonged in Wanaka.
''This is their home. They don't belong in Arrowtown. The
question would be, do we need a museum here for the
repository of items that belong here?''Mr Dickson also
believed it would be good for the town to have a museum but
the idea had ''never got off the ground''.
A museum would need a venue and a group of volunteers to run
it, but there had not been a ''groundswell'' of support.
Mr Dickson believed Wanaka was different from most other
Otago towns in that it did not have as long a European
''Wanaka is a relatively modern town. There wasn't a town
here during the gold mining days.
''It hasn't got that length of history and the artefacts and
buildings around, that some of the places have.''
He acknowledged, however, the Upper Clutha's long Maori
history and believed a museum might have three themes - early
Maori history, high country farming and transport.
Mr Dickson said the society had ''toyed'' with the idea of
somehow using the old, wooden police jail in Dunmore St,
leased by the Creek Cafe and Bar.
''We have talked but never had anyone with enough energy and
enthusiasm to do anything about it.''