Dunedin model of heritage protection

Glen Hazelton.
Glen Hazelton.
Dunedin is showing the rest of New Zealand how to protect old buildings, a key figure behind the city's heritage revival says.

But the city still has some big challenges to tackle as it seeks to protect some major heritage properties needing investment.

The observations came from Glen Hazelton, the former Dunedin City Council heritage policy planner, who was back in Dunedin to speak to about 80 people at the Dunedin Central Library last night.

Dr Hazelton worked for the DCC for seven years, beginning in 2009, and helped building owners breathe new life into the city's warehouse precinct.

The council invested $1.6 million into stage one of the revitalisation project, including rates relief, street improvements and heritage grants for property owners.

That encouraged owners to pump $52 million into their buildings, which was ''not a bad return''.

The key was to build a relationship of trust with owners, help them navigate council regulations and find new uses for old buildings, he said.

He drew applause while showing images of once-derelict buildings given a new future, and said those ''sparks'' in Vogel St had spread building revitalisation to surrounding areas.

But there were also groans as he recalled the demolition of the former Stock Exchange building, and compared the outcome in Vogel St to the continuing decline in Rattray St.

And, asked by an audience member to list the big projects still to be tackled, he singled out the Dominican Priory and King Edward Court as priorities.

King Edward Court was an ''absolutely fantastic'' building in need of strengthening, which - if it happened - raised questions about whether existing tenants could then afford to return, he said.

But the building could be more suitable as a hotel, and tenants could be accommodated elsewhere, he suggested.

And, despite the challenges, Dunedin offered a model to the rest of the country as it struggled to encourage the earthquake-strengthening of heritage buildings, he said.

Dr Hazelton is now Heritage New Zealand's organisational development director, based in Wellington.

His Dunedin talk was organised by the Southern Heritage Trust.

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