Bringing Anderson House alive again

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    Anderson Park Trust member Rebecca Coats visits Anderson House this week.

    A GROUP of Southlanders passionate about Invercargill’s much-loved Anderson House have a plan to revive it.

    “It is a far too important asset to be left idle,” Anderson Park Trust acting chairwoman Marion Miller said.

    “It’s about paying respect and celebrating the gift from the Anderson family all those years ago, and giving it a life and a purpose again.”

    The group of eight members including a lawyer, accountant, former Historic Places Trust member, nurse, art enthusiasts and a descendent of the Anderson family are in the process of forming a trust to manage Anderson House.

    The members are Joyce Robins, Craig Macalister, Yvonne Scott, Rebecca Coats, Annie Close, Stephen Bradshaw, Alan Bryce and Marion Miller.

    Set on 24ha of gardens, lawn and native bush on the outskirts of Invercargill, Anderson House was once the home to the late Sir Robert and Lady Anderson. The Anderson family gifted the property to the Invercargill City Council in 1951.

    It became home to the Anderson Park Art Gallery until the council closed the historic homestead to the public in January 2014 after it was deemed an earthquake risk.

    The council has approved works in its long-term plan to earthquake strengthen and improve the building, including upgrading the toilets and fire safety systems, and installing a lift, with a view to repurposing the house.

    The work is proposed to begin within the next two years (2019/2020) and cost about $1.72 million.

    Venture Southland, on behalf of the council, is now seeking expressions of interest from those interested in operating one or more services from Anderson House.

    Venture strategic projects manager Rhiannon Suter said the process was not about consultation.

    “It is purely bids to run the house from individuals, groups or trusts who want to work in partnership with the council to operate it.”

    The Anderson Park Trust is one group intending to submit an expression of interest.

    Mrs Miller said the trust’s plan was to lease Anderson House and the gardens from the council, employ an event manager to manage the property, and run activities and events from the site, such as festivals, fairs, meetings and exhibitions.

    “Our passion is to have [the house] open and being used as it should be.”

    Anderson Park Trust secretary Rebecca Coats said the trust would fund its operation through membership fees, donations and charging an entry fee for certain aspects of the house.

    The trust intended to make the property a multi-purpose venue, for functions and to celebrate music, art and culture, she said.

    “In the future, the monthly calendar [for the house] will be jam-packed.”

    The group is meeting at Anderson House on Monday with a view to touring the house and further decision-making, Mrs Coats said.

    Expressions of interest to operate Anderson House close on October 26. For details of what is required, go to www.venturesouthland.co.nz/projects

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