Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 52, September 2008

The Hauraki District Council is to be commended for making progress in identifying its district's heritage buildings and sites and registering them on its District Plan.

When changes were made to the Local Government Act in 2002 one significant inclusion was the direction to the local territorial authorities that they must, under their district plans, register and preserve the history and heritage of their respective areas.

These issues have always been at the bottom of the councils' priority schedules, especially when it came to spending money, no matter how little. It was always considered that there were more important items on which to spend the ratepayers' funds than preserving the districts' history.

The Hauraki District Council engaged Opus Consultants to prepare a schedule of buildings and sites in the three wards, Waihi, Paeroa and Plains, which meet the requirements of the Act. Unfortunately those who prepared the report did not have even a reasonable knowledge of the districts they were reporting on. The only local consultation was after the original report was received and then only briefly. A further detailed report identifying 78 sites in the Paeroa ward was prepared but there are numerous inaccuracies. In fact the Paeroa section will require considerable alterations.

Had the consultants met with local people, who had a good knowledge of their respective wards, more accurate records would have been compiled and much better value for money received. It has now been left to the "locals" to produce a more accurate record of the heritage buildings and sites in their respective wards. This is now a time consuming task for busy volunteers.

In my research of the history of the Paeroa Ward, it has become quite apparent that district heritage sites must be recorded to have some control on their "safety" for the benefit of generations to come. Sure there is the New Zealand Historic Places Trust which does take care of things historic, but its regulations for acceptance, on going use and maintenance limits its involvement in the numerous district sites.

There are two sites among the many in Paeroa that come to mind from my research work being done at present.

The first is the Stone of Peace and flag pole erected on the apex of Tuikairangi Hill (Primrose) to commemorate the end of the Boer War and the coronation of King Edward VII. This memorial was unveiled on August 2, 1902. The large stone was set on concrete with a time capsule inserted. The Coronation Memorial flag pole, complete with cross-arm, was erected from which the Union Jack and later the New Zealand flag was flown on official occasions. Local dignitaries planted trees around the site. The flag pole was taken down in 1921 for some repairs and re-erected. All that remains today is a buried concrete base with the flag pole hole.

On September 26, 1946, just after the Second World War, the Paeroa District High School planted a grove of 12 trees near the Te Aroha Road frontage as a memorial to those past pupils who paid the supreme sacrifice for their country. There was one tree from each country in which the New Zealanders were involved in conflicts. With the changing of the name to Paeroa College and its progressive expansion, the grove was cut down. There are former pupils today who can remember the grove and the commemoration ceremony.

Over the past years there have been historic buildings and sites destroyed in the Hauraki District in the name of progress. As the district grows older its residents are becoming more aware of its history.

Today there are many historic buildings over 100 years old with very little exterior change and even interior alterations, which should be registered on the district plan. In Paeroa, for instance, these include Paeroa Courthouse (1896), Criterion Hotel (1897), Paeroa Hotel (1897), Hugh Poland home, Poland Street, (c 1905), Joe Brenan home, King Street (1908 and former Park View Private Hospital), the dairy factory houses and the brick dairy factory in Fraser Street (1909), the small cottage in Wharf Street (c 1890). There are several more buildings and sites which come into this category.

A register of such buildings and sites, would enable future developers and owners to "have a second take" before they go ahead and destroy the town's heritage.

However, Paeroa's main street, in fact every main street or central business district in New Zealand, is in danger of being destroyed as the result of the recently adopted Government building regulations governing earthquake proofing any building over 10 years old. Already these regulations have been felt by several property owners in the Hauraki District.

The Paeroa and District Historical Society has come up against the regulations with proposed extensions to its Museum, necessary because of the lack of display and storage space. At present the museum is in the Society-owned former Paeroa Public Library building, built of brick in 1940 to mark the centenary of New Zealand—a historic building in its own right.

Plans were first drawn up two years ago to erect a new building on the Society's section at the rear of the museum building facing Marshall Street and also carry out renovations of the present building.

Under these new regulations, if the new building is joined to the existing museum building then the latter has to be earthquake proofed; if more than $20,000 is to be spent on renovations in the museum building, the regulations are invoked.

The structural engineer's design to earthquake proofing the museum building is estimated to cost $250,000 for an interior steel fame to support the exterior walls. The interior of the building will be considerably "wrecked" to do this work. It will take another $100,000 to close in the exposed steel beam skeleton, refurbish the building, together with new shelving and display cabinets etc. The Museum will be closed and everything stored off-site, for six to nine months or longer.

The cheapest way out is to demolish the museum building and start from ground-zero with a new purpose-built building and the $350,000 will go a long way to meeting the cost. But this does not preserve heritage of the town. It may be possible save the façade, demolish the remainder of the building and erect a new building behind façade.

Every building owner in the main street—there is not a building under 10 years old in the length of Paeroa's main street—will face these regulations when they move to up-grade their premises. It is either pay big money for earthquake proofing or knock the building down. While the latter maybe more economic, the town will lose many of its historic buildings. I do not think Paeroa, or any town or city for that matter, wants this to happen, but at this stage there seems to be no happy medium.

And do not blame the local territorial authorities; they are directed by Government to carry out its bureaucratic building regulations.

On a more pleasant note, congratulations to the Department of Conservation staff for the excellent work they are doing improving the Karangahake Walkway tracks. A start has been made on the restoration of the Woodstock/Talisman pumphouse deep in the Waitawheta Gorge and once completed this will be a real gem on what is now one of the most popular walkways in New Zealand.