Home' Greymouth Star : June 5th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 7
he devastation left by Cyclone Ita
has in the recent past produced a
series of front page articles in our
local paper re-igniting the debate
as to the merits or other wise
of various prominent historic
structures and sites in our community.
The name of the Greymouth Heritage Trust has
appeared, along with several comments from our
Mayor at times presenting the work carried out by
our members in an incomplete fashion.
We write this letter in the hope of correcting any
misconception that may have crept into ratepayers’
and councillors’ minds, and hopefully to rekindle
a meaningful discussion around the council’s
commitment to our local history.
The Greymouth Heritage Trust was formed
in early 1994 when the old Post Office was
threatened with demolition. Unfortunately, the
trust was unable to save this significant building,
however we are all by now familiar with the
problems its modern replacement encountered.
The trust also strongly advocated for the
retention of the historic pedestrian bridge over
the railway line, which connected our town
centre to its immediate residential and tourist
accommodation area. Again ‘progress’ took
precedence over heritage.
Attempts by various parties to reopen the
pedestrian link were quickly snuffled out, thanks
in no small part to the prohibitive cost of building
stairs and ramps to the latest building code.
The trust ’s vision and goals have always been
to preserve, promote and facilitate the ongoing
use of Mawhera/Greymouth’s heritage as a viable
and living part of our community so present and
future generations can benefit.
Key objectives enshrined in our trust
charter include encouraging our community
to understand and take pride in its history,
improving the amenities and environment of the
area using heritage as an economic development
tool to attract visitors and income into our area.
Some of the most successful and visible projects
the trust has undertaken so far include.—
Restoration of the Greymouth Harbour
Board building, which is now used by the council
to house port staff.
Development of Coal River Heritage Park
behind the harbour board building, including the
commissioning of the Rory McDougall sculpture.
Relocation and restoration of the railway
signal box across from the historic Greymouth
Railway Station and the Kaiata Station.
Restoration and relocation of the World War
Two pillbox adjacent to the southern breakwater.
Of significant relevance is that all of the above
projects (bar the Kaiata Station) are easily
accessible from the floodwall and/or located along
the way of the newly opened Wilderness Cycle
More recently, the trust turned its attention to the
Greymouth wharf cranes when their future was put
in jeopardy by potential council developments.
In line with other major Greymouth Heritage
Trust projects, lottery funding was sought to
commission an independent conser vation plan to
assess the heritage value of the cranes and options
for saving them.
The full report was made available in February
2013. The following extract summarises the
findings: “ The port area including the wharf, signal
light, marshalling yards, wharf sheds, harbour board
building, the rail tracks, railway signal box, railway
station and cranes comprise a unique cultural
landscape that reflects the growth and development
of the central West Coast and the dramatic river
and coastal setting of the town.”
As a result of this report, the trust started to
actively engage with the council to allow for the
restoration of the goods shed as well as the cranes.
While the Grey District Council as owner of the
goods shed had not carried out any maintenance
on the building for decades, within 12 months of
signalling its interest, the Greymouth Heritage
Trust presented plans to structurally upgrade the
goods shed, re-clad and develop it for use as a hub
for the new cycleway and the Coal River Heritage
Murray Hay, councillor with the heritage
portfolio, attended our last annual general meeting.
He was presented with the plans and photos
of similar developments around the world and
appeared enthusiastic about the potential of this
In short, the cranes project became the goods
shed and cranes project; a much larger and more
significant undertaking requiring careful planning,
funding and development.
Then Cyclone Ita hit. Within a very short
period, a flurry of meetings between council staff,
councillors and the Mayor put a few members
of the Greymouth Heritage Trust under intense
pressure. We had to remove the ‘dangerous
material’, urgently secure and repair the goods shed
or allow for its immediate demolition. This was a
predicament the heritage trust could not respond
to within the tight timeframe requested by the
council. All doors for negotiation were shut. We
were left with no option but to accept the council’s
decision to have the building pulled down.
Why such a hurry? Demolition was one of three
options presented to the council by their structural
engineer to make the goods shed safe — it was not
the only one.
Other buildings in town were also badly damaged,
but are still standing pending review by various
parties. The insurance payment could have been
used toward the restoration of the goods shed, for
Even more disappointing is the fact that the trust
(indeed the community) was assured by our Mayor
that the “the demolition would be a careful one
and anything worth saving would be put aside for
possible use in future projects”.
We were greatly alarmed when the whole building
was crushed in less than half a day.
What happened to the 66 hardwood poles and
33 heart rimu roof trusses? Who benefited from
the recycled structural timbers we were hoping
to use for future historical and/or community
Why such expediency to remove and destroy?
Within a few days of the above, the trust is
urged by our Mayor to “make a start on moving
and restoring the old Greymouth wharf cranes”.
The trust has never and could not “get on” with
any project without the express and unwavering
support of the following key stakeholders: Grey
District Council, Lottery Commission, Historic
Places Trust and specific community interest
groups such as the Greymouth Business and
Promotion Association, Rotary and Lions.
Most of the funds held in the trust account have
been allocated to specific projects by their donor(s)
and cannot be diverted to other projects.
While the trust is extremely grateful for
the monies raised through the sale of Mayor
Kokshoorn’s book The Golden Grey, it is important
to note that the publication was made possible
thanks to funding which could only be accessed
through an entity such as the trust.
This was a prime example of a win-win situation
where an individual approached the Greymouth
Heritage Trust with a project that fitted with one
of the key objectives of the trust — “encouraging
our community to understand and take pride in
its history”. The trust was used as an umbrella
organisation to access funding for the book.
The trust agreed to cover the cost of launching,
distributing and re-publishing The Golden Grey
in exchange for all proceeds to go toward local
Our focus is now on completing the Coal River
Park interpretation and upgrade, restoring the
cranes and continuing to facilitate the enhancement
of the heritage values in our central business district
and surrounding area by working with the council,
other interest groups and individuals. We always
welcome new members who may be interested in
a specific project or have skills in finance, project
management, consent or building etc.
Until recently, we believed the trust had a good
working relationship with the council. We had
many successes with the support of past councillors
such as Karen Hamilton and Paul Berry. It was
heart-warming to see Cr Hay attend our meetings.
We were also encouraged by council staff member
Erin McGoldrick’s presentation at the heritage
meeting held at the council in mid-May. However,
we note that similar presentations have been made
before. Have we got an assurance that this report
will not end in a drawer and be forgotten as soon as
some new developer or natural event hits our town?
In short, we now question the depth of the
council’s commitment to heritage preser vation and
enhancement in our community. We are calling
for transparency, accountability and long-term
commitment. We rely on the council to facilitate
meaningful discussions, vision and action. True
leadership unites and inspires, empowering
individuals and groups to work together to achieve
more for the betterment of all. Will our Mayor,
councillors and Grey District Council staff actions
align with our call?
If anyone would like to be involved with
the trust, please contact us direct or e-mail
Greymouth Heritage Trust committee members,
In the wake of Cyclone Ita, the wind damaged old Greymouth goods shed at the wharf was pulled down. The 66 hardwood poles and 33 heart rimu trusses
were demolished in less than half a day. The Greymouth Heritage Trust, which has so far restored the railway signal box and created the coal heritage park, could
only watch as part of the town’s industrial landscape tumbled. In a bid to rekindle meaningful discussion, the trust has written an open letter to the Grey District
Council, Mayor and residents.
Runanga Miners’ Hall — under threat of demolition.
The Goods Shed comes down, April 28, 2014.
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