NOT everyone is on board with HWCP’s plans to transform Invercargill’s CBD.
Invercargill heritage advocate Chris Henderson says a significant number of the city’s heritage buildings had already been demolished in recent years and she is concerned more will be demolished if plans for an ambitious large-scale development goes ahead.
Invercargill’s point of difference was its variety of architecture all in close proximity, she said.
“Heritage buildings are part of our heritage and history and give us an anchor. Otherwise we can be lost.”
Mrs Henderson has had a long association with Heritage New Zealand (formerly New Zealand Historic Places Trust) and is a member of the Friends of the Museum and Heritage South.
She had obtained a photograph supplied by the National Library of New Zealand which showed the dozens of heritage buildings which had been demolished in the inner city over the past 80 years.
“It is very sobering,” she said.
“You assume you will lose some over time, but we are looking at the last hooray.”
She does not want the HWCP retail precinct development to go ahead, but rather would like to see the remaining heritage buildings retained and restored.
“We need people who care about the old buildings to give them a new lease on life.”
A prime example of how well that could be done was HW Richardson Group’s Classic Motorcycle Mecca, she said.
Ltd plans to build a multimillion-dollar covered complex for retail, entertainment and hospitality, encompassing the block bordered by Tay, Dee, Esk and Kelvin Sts.
HWCP is a joint venture between Invercargill City Property Ltd, owned by the Invercargill City Council’s Holdco, and HWR Property Ltd, part of HW Richardson Group.
The plan involves retaining and incorporating three historic facades into the development, as well as the former Bank of NSW building, Reading Cinemas and the Kelvin Hotel and demolishing all remaining buildings to make way for the precinct.
“I think it is a tragedy. It is very short-sighted,” Mrs Henderson said.
“Tourists come here to admire [the city’s heritage buildings], and if we are serious about regional development and heritage tourism, we must make it easy for the owners to do the right thing.”
Mrs Henderson conceded the cost to earthquake strengthen and restore old buildings could be prohibitive, but she said a revolving fund could be set up so building owners could pay for the repairs up front and repay the money over time once the buildings were tenanted.
“It would be no cost to the owners, but the buildings would be safe.
“The buildings belong to the people… it is unfair the owners have to tackle [the cost of expensive repairs] on their own with no help.”
At a media briefing two weeks ago, HWCP director Scott O’Donnell said: “We’ve worked very closely with Heritage [New Zealand], we’ve had some very long discussions. They are aware of the need for us to go and trigger [the development].
“It would be great to keep everything, but it is not possible to. Some of them are so far gone.”