For the past three years, the former Dunedin art
gallery building at Logan Park has stood in the way of the
Dunedin City Council and Otago Cricket Association's shared
vision to expand the University Oval cricket ground. A
resolution now appears imminent. Cricket writer Adrian Seconi
The University Oval pictured during the test between New
Zealand and the West Indies in December last year. The
Otago Cricket Association would like to expand the ground
and the Dunedin City Council has allocated funds in the
annual plan to shift the media centre (top left) and
sightscreen.Any expansion hinges on the removal, or part
removal, of the former art gallery (left of media
centre).Photo by Peter McIntosh.
It is easy to get swept away listening to Otago Cricket
Association chief executive Ross Dykes talk about his vision
for the tree-lined University Oval.
He paints a picture of a cricket Utopia where fans can spread
out generous picnic lunches and lounge on the grassy
embankments while watching the drama unfold in the middle.
There is just one cloud on the horizon.
The venue's dimensions - specifically, its boundaries - are
limited by the location of the former art gallery, built for
the 1925 New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition.
Such exhibitions were large affairs and rank among the most
important events staged in this country in the 19th and early
And the former gallery, at the northern end of the Oval,
appears to be the only surviving in-situ building from any of
the exhibitions held in New Zealand.
Despite its historical significance, part of the building was
removed in 2001.
But when the Dunedin City Council (DCC) recommended its
removal in June 2006, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust
pounced into action, upgrading its status from a category 2
to a category 1 building and vowing to fight its demolition
in the Environment Court if necessary.
With the DCC determined to press on with its planned
development, the battle lines had been drawn and a lengthy
legal encounter loomed.
That was three years ago, and with time the language has
softened on both sides.
The DCC is now talking about finding a sensible solution and
the Historic Places Trust is resigned to reaching a
"All I can say is those discussions are ongoing," DCC city
life general manager Graeme Hall said when asked if the
Historic Places Trust had changed its stance.
"To remove the building has significant planning issues and
we're working through it. But, I think, we'll be in a
position where we'll know the answers to many of those
questions before the end of this year."
New Zealand Historic Places Trust Otago-Southland area
manager Owen Graham is of a similar mind.
"We come at it from different perspectives but the important
thing is we remain open to opportunities to change the
position that we are holding," he said.
"In this case, I can say with time, it has been possible to
enter into some more positive negotiations. The whole
objective is to find an outcome which actually addresses the
important issues from each side."
Perhaps part of the reason the Historic Places Trust appears
to have given ground is because it seems the building's
category 1 status will not shield it from the bulldozers.
"The [Historic Places Trust] registration, let's be very
clear, is not a form of protection. It is a recognition
process," Graham said.
On the DCC's District Plan, which was reviewed in April 2008,
the former art gallery remains a category 2 building, which
means it is afforded less protection.
How that would pan out in court is uncertain but in a clear
indication the council believes it can go ahead with its
plans to remove the building, or part of it, it has allocated
funds in the annual plan to shift the media centre and
The possibility more of the building may be lost does not sit
well with art historian Peter Entwisle.
He believes it is the council's duty to restore the two bays
that were lopped off in 2001 rather than hack into the
"Their duty is to restore it - that is clear," Entwisle said.
"It is one of the few exhibition buildings still on the
original site and it is also a very fine design, especially
on the inside."
Entwisle would like Otago cricket to consider shifting back
to Carisbrook, but that seems unlikely given $8 million was
spent getting the University Oval ready for first-class and
Dunedin architect Ted McCoy said the gallery was designed by
renowned architect Edmund Anscombe and, while it was
originally intended to be a temporary structure, it was a
purpose-built facility perfect for displaying art.
"Architecturally, the exterior is fairly plain," McCoy said.
"Not what you would call a brilliant piece of design, but the
interior was quite magnificent. Anscombe developed a system
for using natural light which, at that time, was quite
revolutionary and well-regarded in architectural circles. So
the interior was a great space for displaying art."
McCoy said he would love to see the building restored to its
former glory, but if the decision was made to trim the
structure further, the building might as well be removed
"You'd either have to restore it to what Anscombe had
designed, or you'd have to pull the darned thing down, I'm
afraid, because they've already taken a chunk out of it."
When the South Seas Exhibition closed, Sir Percy and Lucy,
Lady Sargood made a significant donation to help the Dunedin
Art Gallery Society and DCC secure the building.
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery occupied the building until
1997 and it is currently tenanted by the Otago and
Highlanders rugby teams and the New Zealand Academy of Sport
Should part of the building be demolished, the Highlanders
and Otago teams would have to find new training facilities.
Otago Rugby Football Union chief executive Richard Reid said
he was well aware of the development plans and was prepared
to shift the team's training home if required.
"As for where the Highlanders go, that is yet to be decided
but we are in the loop of what's going on.
"[The Forsyth Barr stadium] is not being built or designed as
a training facility for a professional rugby team. So I don't
think it will ever be the training home."
Academy of Sport South Island chief executive Kereyn Smith
said the academy was looking into its options but its
preference was to be closer to the new stadium if it needed