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Golden keys were handed to the Queenstown Lakes community yesterday by the trust which spearheaded the rescue and restoration of three miners' cottages from the pioneer days of Arrowtown.
More than 200 guests, villagers and visitors gathered to celebrate in the public garden in the heart of the heritage precinct.
Arrowtown Trust chairman David Clarke said he and trustees Bill Dolan, Lex Perkins, Rick Pettit, Don Spary and John Wilson wanted to mark the occasion, now their job was essentially finished.
Descendants of the families who lived in Granny Jones Cottage, which dates from 1883 to 1885, Adams Cottage, built about 1878, and Romans Cottage, built in 1870, complained to the Lakes District Museum about the deteriorating condition of the dwellings early in 2006.
The museum board made submissions to the Queenstown Lakes District Council and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) and "it was essentially discovered that the NZHPT provisions allowed demolition by neglect and there was little we could do to force the owner to maintain his listed buildings," Mr Clarke said.
Lake Hayes property developer John Martin was credited with buying the properties from Irish millionaire developer Eamon Cleary and passed them to the council at no extra cost in 2007.
Elected trustees gave the idea of using the precinct for low-key commercial activity to a group of Arrowtown architects, landscape architects and heritage architects.
Mr Clarke praised their work, which led to resource consent applications. He also thanked community trusts, the Lottery Grants Board and the council for contributing to the restoration.
Specialist builder Roy Bagley and subcontractors were thanked for working with "passion, care and affection" on the restoration of the three cottages and also the former Millers Flat Church, which was moved, for the fourth time in its 140-year existence, to the precinct last year.
Central Lakes Trust deputy chairman Graeme Bell congratulated the trust for restoring "some of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand" and Community Trust of Southland trustee Joan Kiernan said the group took care to invest in "good quality" and "historically important" projects.