Demolition prompts concerns

Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Graeme Clark says more protection is needed for historic...
Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Graeme Clark says more protection is needed for historic buildings. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON
The planned demolition of a 139-year-old building has raised concerns about the protection of historic places in Oamaru.

Macallan House could be bowled as soon as next week, its owner has confirmed.

Christopher Paul gained the right to tear down the Thames St building late last year, after a legal dispute with the Waitaki District Council over the upper-storey facade.

The council wanted it to be kept intact, but Mr Paul argued for full demolition.

The building’s demise has raised questions about whether the council will introduce stricter guidelines in the future — and legislate for that within the district plan.

Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Graeme Clark is calling for greater protection of historic buildings.

"We find it very disappointing that this is still happening. We are a heritage town.

"Even though the building is not extraordinary at the moment, it forms a great streetscape for the rest of the buildings."

Mr Clark cited Oamaru’s BNZ bank as an example of a building that had been modernised, while retaining the facade.

It was "extremely important" the council extended the protected heritage area in the next district plan, he said.

"We will be inputting into that plan as much as possible, as much as we are allowed to be."

He also encouraged the public to make submissions on the district plan when it went out for consultation.

However, Mr Paul said keeping the facade was "just not practical".

"I would have kept the building as is if I could have easily earthquake-proofed it but it just wasn’t on — it would have been a nightmare.

"In the end I am pretty sure people will be pleased with it."

Mr Paul could not confirm exactly when demolition would start, but said preparations would begin next week.

The building replacing Macallan House would be open-plan, with a walkway through from Medway St to Thames St, and its design would be "fitting" with the rest of the street, he said.

There were no confirmed tenants.

"It can be whatever people want, whether it is retail or office or whatever," he said.

"It will be good to have something positive on the main street.

"It will blend in somehow, all the buildings are different."

In 2017, Heritage New Zealand expanded its list to include much of Oamaru’s central business district as well as the Harbour and Tyne St areas, including Macallan House.

Otago Southland area manager Jane Macknight said that was more extensive than what was presently recognised and protected under the Waitaki district plan.

"[Heritage NZ] considers that it is important that the Oamaru historic area streetscape continues to tell the story of European settlement and retains its distinctive character as an iconic Kiwi country town," Ms McKnight said.

Waitaki District Council planning manager Hamish Barrell said the heritage chapter of the district plan was still being drafted, but the council needed to give "serious consideration" to adopting Heritage New Zealand’s expanded Oamaru historic area.

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