Dunedin family jewels classy source of pride

Historic Dunedin home Olveston. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Historic Dunedin home Olveston. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
There was a moment when media types from New Zealand and overseas were wandering slightly awe-struck past the Olympic-sized billiard room at Olveston.

They were marvelling at the fine examples of Oriental craftsmanship on offer, staring lovingly at the ladies’ room with the Juliet window providing a view of the main hall, when a sense of true pride kicked in.

On a Trenz-organised tour of city tourism operations, the people who write things about tourism stuff and put it in newspapers, magazines, obscure websites and perhaps on Twitter had already visited Speight’s, and were now at the grand old house on Royal Tce.

If you’re from Dunedin you can feel a sense of ownership of Olveston, particularly as it is owned by the Dunedin City Council, and therefore owned by ratepayers, and therefore, owned by you.

In a way, it’s your house, and it’s surprisingly easy to feel quite at home in the library for instance, with its remarkable reading chair with a book holder so you don’t have to go to the trouble of holding the book near your face, and what appears to be a complete collection of Oscar Wilde’s writing.

Perhaps you are playfully tapping out a little tune on the grand piano in the drawing room, or looking light-heartedly through the stained glass windows you know were made by Bryans and Webb, of London, to pay tribute to the arts, all the time thinking of cucumber sandwiches and croquet and high tea.

It is when steeped in that mindset, and listening to the effusive praise of your media colleagues for the house that by this time you feel is fully owned by you, as it matches the lifestyle you have quite fictionally created for yourself, that you start to feel pretty good about Dunedin and your place in it.

"There’s not another historic building like it in New Zealand," one says.

"Yes", you think modestly, "we like it".

Of course it wasn’t just Olveston on the itinerary, there were other stops at places Dunedin people should really go to more regularly, just to remind ourselves how good we are.

Speight’s also popular, as was our tour guide there.

"I loved Keith, he was a hoot," was one comment that seemed to sum up the general feeling of the group.

Dunedin people don’t own Speight’s, apart from some sort of moral ownership, but that doesn’t matter.

They do own the Otago Museum, however, and the tour ended with a visit to the museum’s science centre, butterfly house and planetarium.

They were excellent.

I felt proud.

Then I felt slightly ashamed, as the last time I toured Olveston I was at intermediate school, and it was the first time I had visited the redeveloped museum.

Worse still, a hastily cobbled-together straw poll of Dunedin media people showed a good 50% had not been to some of these places for a long, long time.

If you keep your eye on tourism media you should see something about these Dunedin gems soon.

Perhaps it can prompt not just tourists, but locals as well, to visit and enjoy them.


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