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Link to West Coast mining past

22 November 2012

MEDIA RELEASE

Link to West Coast mining past in line for heritage recognition

The former Miners’ Hall in Runanga on the South Island’s West Coast is being proposed for Category 1 registration by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT).

A miners’ hall has stood in Runanga since shortly after the town was established as a state coal mining town in the first decade of the 20th century, although the original 1908 hall had to be rebuilt when it was destroyed by fire in 1937.

NZHPT Heritage Advisor Robyn Burgess says the building is significant in New Zealand’s history of the working classes, the organised labour movement and the Labour Party.

“Miners’ halls, while previously somewhat common, are now rare in New Zealand. This hall functioned as the social and political centre of the mining community of Runanga, and as such played a pivotal role in the organised labour movement in New Zealand.”

The timber hall has an impressive scale and form and the main façade is emblazoned with socialist slogans that reflect a strong tradition of industrial unionism. A key feature of the interior is the auditorium, a large open space with a coved ceiling, high panelled dado, flat timber floor and a shallow raked balcony. Both the 1908 original and the 1937 predecessor were designed by mine engineer, George Millar.

The State Miners Union ceased to exist in the 1960s, and the hall was subsequently used as a factory until 1975. After a period of disuse the hall became the Runanga District Community Centre, and in 1983 it was renovated by the Grey District Council. Slogans were repainted on the building as part of a millennium project in 2000.

Ms Burgess says Category 1 status is given to places of ‘special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value’.

“The former Runanga Miners’ Hall has very special social significance which makes it a historic place of outstanding heritage value to New Zealand.”

The registration proposal report is available to view online on http://www.historic.org.nz/en/TheRegister/NotifiedProposals.aspx with the public invited to make written submissions to the NZHPT by 4pm 17 December 2012.

BACKGROUND NOTES

Registering historic places

Registration is the inclusion on the NZHPT Register of a place or area that is considered part of New Zealand’s historical and cultural heritage. Places may be included on the Register if they possess aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, cultural, historic, scientific, social, spiritual, technological or traditional values. Under the Historic Places Act (1993), places registered may be accorded a ranking of Category 1 or 2 status. The NZHPT also registers wahi tapu and wahi tapu areas.

Registration does not provide any direct protection to historic places or wahi tapu. Protection comes about when local authorities decide to protect their local historic places by scheduling them in their district plans under the Resource Management Act 1991. In this case resource consent is often required from the Council concerned to modify any scheduled place. About 90 percent of places on the Register are also scheduled in District Plans.

More than 5,600 sites are included on the Register which can be searched online at historic.org.nz/TheRegister.aspx.

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