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Study will put Opotiki’s heritage on the map

Thursday 7 April 2005

Study will put Opotiki’s heritage on the map

More of Opotiki’s historical places will be on the national heritage “map” after a comprehensive study of the town centre, which starts this month.

A project team that includes conservation architects, historians and an archaeologist will work together over the next few months on the most in-depth survey ever made of Opotiki’s heritage.

With the help of the community, they will identify buildings and sites that are not yet on any heritage list but are thought to have historic value and add to the character and story of Opotiki’s town centre.

The project is a joint effort by Opotiki District Council, Environment Bay of Plenty and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Its goal is to ensure the town’s heritage is kept safe for future generations, says Opotiki mayor John Forbes. “Opotiki has many qualities that are unique and the town centre is one of them. So it’s vitally important we look after the buildings and the historically important places that are there.”

Opotiki’s heritage is also a drawcard for visitors, so the project may have tourism spin offs, Mr Forbes says. “We’re lucky to still have so many of these great old buildings that reflect Opotiki’s earlier years. Many New Zealand towns have already lost much of their past under the pressures of development.”

Several buildings in Opotiki’s town centre, including St Stephen’s Church and three hotels, are already officially registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. However, many other buildings are likely to have historic value. he three agencies are concerned that some of these may be deteriorating structurally.

“So the first step in the project is to locate these places and assess their historical significance,” Mr Forbes explains. “After that, we can look at the best ways to protect and manage them.”

New Zealand Historic Places Trust’s area coordinator Gail Henry describes Opotiki as “a real heritage town”. She sees the project as is a chance for local people to share their ideas on how to make the most of Opotiki’s built heritage assets. The project will also help gain a better understanding of the collective value of the groups of historic places in the town centre, which may be greater than the value of each one individually.

Ms Henry says the researchers will need active support from the local community for the project. “We will be trying to uncover the history of the town centre, and local residents hold a lot of knowledge about that. People may have old documents of buildings or photographs from Opotiki’s past. They will have the opportunity to contribute.”

The project organisers have already contacted the owners of buildings they think may have historical significance and will meet with them, local iwi and members of local heritage groups on Friday 8 April. A community meeting will be publicised for later in April.

To find out more about the project please contact Bron Healey, resource planner, at Environment Bay of Plenty on 0800 ENV BOP (368 267).

ENDS

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