Seddon homestead plans shelved

Richard John Seddon. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library via Wikipedia
Richard John Seddon was Prime Minister from 1893 until his death in office in 1906. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library via Wikipedia
Descendants of former Kumara Premier Richard John Seddon have cooled plans to build a replica homestead as a museum in the township.

However, the opportunity for the community to acquire a slice of history preserved by one of the town's founding families are blossoming.

Jane Blakeman (nee Seddon), the great-granddaughter of the famous 19th century politician, said the family's idea to rebuild the Seddon homestead on its original reserve site was not feasible at this stage.

A meeting was held in the town to discuss the proposal last Thursday.

"From the meeting it was decided that the Seddon House itself is a bit out of reach for us at this stage in terms of funding . . . and ongoing costs," she said.

Some sort of fixture that could benefit the community, not necessarily on the historic site, was being considered instead to commemorate the first Kumara mayor.

Nicknamed 'King Dick', Seddon went on to be MP for Kumara, Hokitika and then Westland before rising to become New Zealand's longest serving prime minister (premier).

The idea for a replica homestead was first mooted last year during the festivities commemorating Seddon's arrival on the West Coast 150 years ago.

Now a slice of history from that time has now been offered by the family of the late Kumara stalwart, Cushla Martini.

From one of the Kumara's founding families, Mrs Martini spent years restoring an original goldminer's cottage on Greenstone Road. It is now run as an Airbnb.

An offer from the family was tabled at the meeting as a more economic option than building new.

The community could purchase the historic cottage and use it as a museum or information centre.

"The late Cushla Martini was passionate about Kumara and colonial history.

"She particularly loved the gold rush era and dedicated her time to extensively renovating and purchasing items for the original goldminer's cottage in Greenstone Road in 2000," Marcia Martini said for the family.

"We know that she would have absolutely loved to see this used as a memorial building and enjoyed by the public. Cushla purchased many hidden treasures that reside in the home including Richard John Seddon's organ, books and homewares from the era."

Other classic characteristics include a lean-to laundry at the rear, lounge with open fireplace, and dining room-kitchen with coal range.

The home was able to be surveyed off to be saleable on its own parcel of land, she said.

The land has been in the Martini family since 1876.

Heritage Hokitika president David Verrall tabled the offer at the meeting, and said it was well received. However, further discussions were needed.

The meeting was represented by a number of heritage and community representatives including Heritage West Coast, Kumara Residents Trust, Kumara Hall Board as well as the Westland District Council.

- By Janna Sherman of the Hokitika Guardian

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