Sharing a passion for heritage

Graeme (Clarkie) Clark has been involved in heritage projects in Oamaru since 1990 and has now...
Graeme (Clarkie) Clark has been involved in heritage projects in Oamaru since 1990 and has now taken over as chairman of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust. Photo: Hamish MacLean
The "whole reason" for Oamaru’s resurgence is heritage, Graeme Clark, the newly-appointed chairman of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, says.

And the reason the community got fired up about developments in the historic area, including the harbour, was passion, Mr Clark said.

"When you see something happening down here, even with the harbour stuff, there’s lots of comment. And I quite enjoy that. Because I think people are passionate, whether you agree with them or not is a different thing, but the common denominator is passion for the town."

Mr Clark, commonly known as "Clarkie", had a passion for heritage "instilled in the subconscious": his grandfather was one of three Clark brothers who bought Clarks Mill from the New Zealand and Australian Land Company in 1901.

When Mr Clark returned to his hometown Oamaru in 1990, after a decade in Queensland, his work as a registered electrician brought him to the historic area, and it was not long before he "helped pull the boards off the front door" and opened up the Criterion Hotel on Fridays from 5pm to 9pm for beer and a local band. And he has been involved in heritage in the area ever since — through  the Victorian Town at Work, the Red Sheds restoration group, the committee of Oamaru Steam and Rail and the former North Otago Historic Places Trust. 

In August, the Oamaru Whitestone Civic trust announced on social media that chairwoman Kate Proctor had stepped down and Mr Clark, then deputy chairman, would take over.

"It’s been a great ride, the whole thing, and it’s just got better and better," he said.

His goals are: increasing trust membership, continued restoration of the trust’s 16 buildings, communication with tenants and the Waitaki District Council, and encouraging the Waitaki community to take ownership of the precinct and harbour.  

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