Oamaru is in party mode, with celebrations in full swing this
week to mark the town's 150th anniversary.
A variety of events have been organised by artist Donna
Demente, who was inspired to mark the occasion after
witnessing this year's Arrowtown 150th celebrations.
Oamaru has a rich history - built on gold, wool, wheat and
meat which has left its 12,600 residents a lasting legacy -
as well a wealth of new attractions today. In the late 1800s
Oamaru flourished and became a major port town.
Totara Estate supplied the first shipment of frozen meat to
Britain on the ship Dunedin in 1882, making it the birthplace
of New Zealand's billion-dollar frozen meat industry.
The area's early wealth and plentiful limestone contributed
to some of the country's best 19th-century architecture,
including the Bank of New South Wales building, now the
Other significant buildings include the newly renovated Opera
House and the North Otago Museum.
The buildings of the town's Victorian Precinct house numerous
artisans and craftspeople, making and selling everything from
whisky to stone and iron sculptures and penny-farthings.
The precinct also houses the headquarters of the quirky
Steampunk movement, a nod to the past which has helped put
the town firmly on the visitor map today, as have the annual
week-long Victorian heritage celebrations.
The Oamaru Public Gardens, which opened in 1876, are rated
Gardens of Regional Significance by the New Zealand Gardens
The area is home to natural wonders including limestone
formations and the Moeraki boulders and rare wildlife such as
yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins and fur seals. It
has Maori rock art, good fishing, is close to skifields, and
hydro lakes, and will be the finishing point for the nearly
completed Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail from Aoraki/Mount Cook.
The area is also home to award-winning foodies - Fleur
Sullivan, who has two restaurants in the area which attract
an international clientele, Riverstone Kitchen, which has
been named Cuisine magazine's Restaurant of the Year, and
grows much of its own food and showcases other local produce,
and cheesemaker Whitestone. It has a rich literary and
artistic history, with the likes of authors Janet Frame, Owen
Marshall and Fiona Farrell, poet Charles Brasch, composer
Douglas Lilburn and Colin McCahon growing up, educated or
The North Otago town has a lot to put it on the map, and its
determination to capitalise on its heritage - through the
determination and dedication of community stalwarts - is
ensuring it continues to have a vibrant present and future.
Its founding fathers would surely be proud.
And another thing
Education Minister Hekia Parata is once again in the hot
seat, following the release this week of a report by
Ombudsman David McGee, which criticised the Ministry of
Education for its handling of requests for information about
Christchurch school closures. In the light of the findings,
the Office is planning an investigation into the ministry's
disclosure processes, which could be extended further into
The findings follow the admission by Ms Parata in October
that data used by the Ministry of Education to determine the
fate of the region's schools was flawed. That followed claims
the consultation for the proposals, announced in September,
had not been genuine and decisions were predetermined.
Ms Parata was vague about who she consulted before she made
the announcement, which was itself a debacle, with many
affected staff hearing about the proposals from the media.
The handling of other controversial issues, such as class
sizes, closure of special schools and the ongoing Novopay
computer pay system debacle, have taken their toll on school
staff, board members, parents and pupils alike, and claimed
the scalp of Secretary for Education and chief executive
Lesley Longstone, who resigned yesterday.
Ms Parata's ability to adequately manage her important
ministry portfolio is increasingly questionable and her next
moves - and what action Prime Minister John Key may take -
are now under even more intense scrutiny.