Chairman’s report for the year ending 31st December 2019

. Thank you to everyone that attended the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust AGM and thank you George Berry for sharing his personal memories of the development of the heritage movement in Oamaru and North Otago and the early years of the Trust.

Here’s the Chairman’s Report from last night:

This is my Chairman’s report for the year ending 31st December 2019. Our apologies for this very late AGM but as you will all know things took an unusual turn with the Covid 19 pandemic.

Firstly I would like to convey our condolences to Dennis Norman and his family on the loss of his wife Gwythn – Dennis & Gwythn are long time supporters of the Trust and Dennis was a past chairman for many years. Our condolences also to the Geare family on the loss of Mary who was a foundation member of the Trust.

Our condolences to Tod Carter-Scott and family on the loss of her husband Ken who are also long time supporters of the Trust.

Our activities over the last year include – the Loan & Merc lift and associated works project has been completed and is fully operational. This has made life for Moke our top floor tenants very happy. Due to the lift installation, we have leased the 1st floor of the Loan & Merc to newcomers to Oamaru – Helen Hobson & Tom Jones who operate French Treasures- importing antiques & collectables. The Collective Café have completed their new toilet block and the Trust has completed the new staircase to the top floor and all the necessary fire escape and sprinkler work. Over 2019 we have had some new tenancies- The New Zealand Airline Academy installed their 747 simulator in the ground floor of Smiths Store on a temporary basis- this was slightly controversial but the rent from this tenancy allowed the Trust to upgrade the Smiths Store kitchen.

Wendy Simpson moved into the front shop of the Grainstore operating her new business ‘Rose’s General store’. Wendy has expanded her business and has now moved into the Connell & Clowes building where the Tiger Lillys shop was. Dyan Prujean who was in Tiger Lillys has now retired and we wish her well.

We welcome Brent Harpur who has set up his studio in the Lanes Emulsion front space. Brent is a cartoonist, artist and educator.

Blair and Christy Gourdie who operate Harbour Street Bakery have bought the Deja Moo ice cream business and operate this in conjunction with the Bakery.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our tenants- I will try to mention them all by name- Stuart Catto- Woolbuyer, Willetts Furniture Company and the Penguin Entertainers Club who have all been here for 30 years; Kahren Thomson from Slightly Foxed, Michael O’Brien Bookbinder (sometimes), Donna Demente- the Grainstore Gallery- a world renowned gallery & concert venue, the Textile Exchange, the Whitestone Model Railway Club, Dawn Brown with Presence on Harbour, the Crafted Collective gallery, Sandy Taylor with Oamaru Taylormade, Bill Nye from Adventure Books, Wendy Simpson- Rose’s General store & Information Centre, Miss Purple with Studio Realm, Debra Blackgrove-Regalia Time Pieces, Sally-Ann Donnelly with Housekeepers Design and the Loan & Merc Function Centre, Keith, Lynn, Sarah & Arneka Stevens with Moke Apparel, Silica in the Glassroom, Olivia Kwant in Nanna Bangles, Bevan Smith & Alice Hore in Riverstone Larder, Blair & Kristy Gourdie with Harbour Street Bakery & Deja Moo, The Blackie Family with the Collective Café, Rob Donelly operating Vertical Ventures and last but not least the Stables shops- Stuart & Marion Renalson and Joan & Gordon Martin are some of our best Precinct ambassadors, they are also our oldest tenants but very young at heart, in fact, Joan & Gordon are both 90 years old ! Happy Birthday Gordon for last week.

As you can see we have a very diverse and interesting group of dedicated people – all owner-operated businesses and galleries that give our Precinct vibrancy and character. The Trust does its best to look after it’s tenants, particularly in recent times. It is vital we all work together to make the Precinct a great place to work, play and enjoy.

The Trust thanks all the volunteers and members. The Victorian Wardrobe is one of the gems of the Precinct with a wonderful team of volunteers- Dawn Sutherland the Wardrobe Mistress, Glenda Hagenson, Betty Jenkins, Lyn Gray, Hazel Poole, Sue Buckley, Elizabeth McLachlan, Liz Ende and Deborah Taylor.

All year round these volunteers meet every week and work tirelessly on creating, repairing and maintaining our amazing collection of Victorian costumes. It is a tribute to their skills each year when Heritage Week comes around. The Victorian Wardrobe is also a large fundraiser for the Trust.

Other events that have happened last year are- The Trust purchased The Criterion Hotel business which is presently up for lease. The Oasis business have relocated to their own building and vacated the Andersons Building which is also up for lease.

The Trust received a bequest from the Gavin McLean Estate for $50,000. Gavin was a noted historian and author, who passed away early last year, he played a vital role in establishing the Historic Precinct and Harbour Area as Registered Historic sites. Gavin’s published books and journals, particularly on the North Otago area, are valuable resources that will be part of his legacy. Lottery Environment & Heritage granted us $14,000 for the creation of a Conservation Report for Sumpter’s store. The JW Christie Trust granted $5,000 for roofing. Network Waitaki Limited sponsored the 2019 Victorian Fete for $5,750.

We thank most sincerely all our funders & supporters.

We had a very successful Victorian Fete last year with many thanks to our Fete coordinator Frances McMillan & helper Alice Hore. Remember this years Fete is on Sunday 15th November. Once again the generous sponsorship of Network Waitaki Limited and the Waitaki District Council will guarantee a successful Fete.

The Trust has been involved in the Oamaru Harbour Masterplan workshops as a major stake holder in the area.

I would like to thank our staff – Mark Smith – the operations manager, Frances McMillan- our finance & events manager and John Baster- our maintenance & special projects man.

It is a huge task to look after sixteen 140 year old buildings with compliance issues, maintenance, conservation & fundraising. To bring the buildings up to a compliant, healthy & safe standard we sometimes need to make compromises to the fabric of the building.

Adaptive re-use of these buildings will guarantee that future generations will continue the work that has been ongoing the last 30 years.

Thank you to the Trustees who I will introduce- Phil Hope – my vice chairman, a past chairman and long time supporter of the Precinct- Phil’s steady guidance & legal advice has been invaluable to all of us on the Board, Jane Campbell with her events & fundraising skills, Sue McLean- a tenant of the Trust with the Crafted Collective- her calm & measured input is greatly valued, Frances McElhinney- with her management experience & problem solving skills, Natalie Evans with her sound financial advice & building management experience, Richard Vinbrux- with his business experience & common-sense and Chris Oats – our treasurer- keeping our finances in order.

As you will know the Trust has taken on the Whitestone City operation with the support of Tourism Waitaki - this is a fabulous space and I will introduce you to our sterling volunteers – Carolyn Lewis, Faye Ormandy, Stella Xia, Mike Gray, Heather Machin and Yvonne Ballantyne.

Carolyn will give you a brief explanation on the future of Whitestone City. Please have a good look around when we are finished with the official part of tonight.

So it has been over 30 years of the OWCT – where would Oamaru be if our rich heritage had not been recognised by people like George & Carol Berry, Rodney Grater, Helen Stead, David Wilson & David Polson? Other names that come to mind over the years are Neil Plunket, Faye Ormandy, Jenny & Gerald Lynch-Blosse, Michael O’Brien, Marise & Graeme Martin, Kahren Thomson, Evan & Elizabeth Niven, Bill Blair to name a few. I am certainly looking forward to our guest speaker’s presentation.

My involvement with the Precinct started in 1990 when I was called down to the Harbour Board building to fix a light. I had just returned from Australia and was at a loose end, I was fascinated with the buildings. When I was a young boy I remember coming into town with my father in the old Thames truck to drop of wool or grain, I do remember the wooden chutes protruding out of the Loan & Merc building. So I got involved with a group of volunteers called the Victorian Town at Work and the rest is history!

My grandfather David Clark was a county councillor for many years and in 1920 he had to meet His Royal Highness – the Prince of Wales on a Royal Visit through New Zealand so he had a brand new suit made for the occasion by the local tailors Hood & Chennan who owned the building where Cucina Restaurant is now. This was a very proud moment for him and his family so I am wearing the same suit as I feel very proud of what the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust has achieved over the last 30 years, I am proud of the people that have been involved over the years and I am proud of Oamaru.

I will finish my report with the Trust’s vision- Preserving Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct and developing the buildings and streets into a destination locals embrace, visitors want to experience and which drives economic growth and community pride.

Graeme Clark- Chairman Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust

Image: Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Graeme Clark. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

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