Historic factory faces demolition ‘by inertia’

The Clutha District Council is considering the future of the landmark Kelso Dairy Factory, built...
The Clutha District Council is considering the future of the landmark Kelso Dairy Factory, built in 1913, and now in a ‘‘dangerous’’ state of repair. Photo: Richard Davison
A historic West Otago dairy factory faces demolition "by inertia" unless the community mobilises, officials say.

The 105-year-old Kelso Dairy Factory is in a "dangerous" state of repair, and site owner the Clutha District Council expects  to fence it off soon to prevent public access while decisions are made about its long-term future.

The situation was brought to the attention of the West Otago Community Board by council service delivery manager Jules Witt, during its regular meeting in Tapanui on Wednesday. Various possibilities were aired for the site — one of the few historic buildings remaining from the notoriously flood-prone township — ranging from "bowling it" to mobilising community support for its stabilisation and repair.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan spoke against its demolition, saying the factory was regarded fondly by local people as a landmark of a bygone era.

"Personally, I love being able to walk through history like this. Yes, there are safety issues that need to be addressed quickly, but I’d hate to see it demolished purely for the sake of safety," he said.

The site was also popular with tourists and photographers due to its picturesque nature, and steps needed to be taken to prevent people entering the building, while still allowing them to enjoy it.

"Perhaps the community needs to take up its paintbrushes and hammers. We need to hear from locals to make something happen here, because if nothing happens, inertia will make the decision for us."

Mr Witt said although it was a council-owned building, due to its historic nature it was also protected under the council’s district plan, complicating what remedial steps could be taken.

The council’s immediate proposal was to "isolate" the site with fencing, thereby preventing further unmonitored entry by the public.

This would be discussed at the next council committee meeting, he said.

West Otago ward councillor John Herbert, whose great-great-uncle James Herbert built the factory, said he believed most local residents would favour preserving the building, given it could be done "with minimal cost".

"It’s a local landmark and testament to the rich history of the area. But we need to get the message out there that its future isn’t guaranteed."

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

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