Buildings may be used as lodgings

A group of 19th-century farm buildings at Fruitlands, known as Butler's Farm, may get a new lease of life as travellers' accommodation and a function venue.

Property owner Nick Taylor has applied to the Central Otago District Council for resource consent and the matter will be considered today .

Although the buildings are not listed in the district plan as heritage buildings, they have New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category 1 status.

The restoration of the buildings began three years ago. The Historic Places Trust has given two grants, totalling $75,000, for the project.

The farm was established in the early 1870s and was used for dairying before John Butler bought it in 1878 when it became known as Butler's Farm.

Mr Butler was a prominent member of the community and served on the Vincent County Council for 23 years.

Orcharding was the next phase of development on the farm and that resulted in the district being known as Fruitlands. About 30,000 fruit trees were planted, starting in 1915, but the venture failed because of harsh winters.

In 1928 the property was converted back to farming.

In his application, Mr Taylor said four separate buildings made up the historic cluster - a homestead, barn, stables and dairy. His aim was to restore them in stages, one building at a time, over a decade. When complete, there would be accommodation on site for 13 people.

One building would be used as a meeting room for up to 30 people. Higher-volume events, such as weddings, would occur outdoors, probably in the courtyard enclosed by the buildings, and would cater for a maximum of 250 people.

"The proposed restoration of these historically significant buildings is a substantial financial undertaking. The completion of the project is dependent on the buildings' ability to provide a return on the investment that is being made," Mr Taylor said.

The venture would "help secure the long-term survival of the buildings".

All work was subject to the provisions of a conservation plan and archeological authority and done with the guidance and under the constraints of the Historic Places Trust.

The trust had been consulted about the plans for restoration and redevelopment and in a letter to Mr Taylor, southern region general manager Rob Hall said it was "very supportive of the work you are undertaking".

Council planning consultant David Whitney has recommended the council grant consent, subject to conditions about wastewater, signs, parking on site and landscaping, providing there is a suitable water supply for domestic use and firefighting.

lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz