Chairman’s report for the year ending 31st December 2021

Updated: May 20


Firstly, the Trust acknowledges with sadness the passing of one of our Live Members - Evan Niven. Evan was a very enthusiastic member of the Trust. He spent many hours sitting outside number 2 Harbour Street greeting visitors, playing his harmonica and keeping an eye on everything. His family are donating a street seat bench to the Precinct and we are in the process of getting that organised.


Once again, the past year has been an unpredictable one with the pandemic lurking around. Unfortunately, the Network Waitaki Victorian Fete had to be cancelled along with the Heritage Celebrations. The good news is the 2022 Network Waitaki Victorian Fete will be held on 20th November. Thank you to the ongoing sponsorship and support of Network Waitaki Ltd. Thank you also to all the Fete volunteers who turn up at 6am every year to help out.


The Precinct was quite busy up until the August lockdown with most businesses in Harbour and Tyne Streets seeing a lot of domestic travelers. Things certainly changed when the lockdown happened, then the level 3 directive came into place. I would like to acknowledge Graeme and Marise Martin who were the Criterion Hotel proprietors. They took over the lease in November 2020, refurbished the hotel and created a true Victorian ambiance. Unfortunately their tenancy was during trying times with the pandemics, lockdowns, traffic light systems, cancellation of events and ill health. The Trust wishes Herbert and Marise well for their future projects and retirement.


I will take this opportunity to sincerely thank all our volunteers and Trust staff. The Victorian Wardrobe team meet every week all year round. They create costumes, hire out all sorts of Victorian clothing and display authentic attire. They repair and maintain out amazing collection of garments. The Wardrobe is also a large fundraiser for the Trust. During the year of 2021 there were over 1550 visitors to the Wardrobe. On behalf of the Trust, I would like to thank Dawn Sutherland, Elizabeth McLachlan, Hazel Poole, Deborah Taylor, Ruth MacEachern, Glenda Hagenson, Jill Grenfell, Margaret & Avril Jamieson, Lyn and Mike Gray and Alistair Falconer.


The Oamaru and Waitaki Visitor Information Centre and Whitestone City has been very successful. The number of visitors through the doors from the re-opening of Whitestone City from 3rd July 2020 up to yesterday at closing is 23,611. The doors have been open 7 days a week since the start of January. What a fantastic result! Well done Carolyn Lewis and the Team.


Thank you to John Baster, our Building Maintenance and Project Officer, whose skills are invaluable to the Precinct. Introducing Michelle Harrison who joined our team last year as Administrator and Treasurer. Both John and Michelle have a great rapport with our Tenants, Contractors and Council Staff. Over the past year there has been maintenance and administrative projects completed, some of the larger ones include the overhaul of the Loan and Merc log burner flue system, with a new inspection and cleaning ports added, The Victorian Wardrobe's children's gallery with changing rooms, a new entry vestibule has been built by the Trust for 10 Harbour Street, which is the new Craftwork Brewery location, there are 40 rain heads around the Precinct which are checked and cleaned regularly and miles of gutters, there has been new roof access hatches and stairs install and so on.


The "Roll out the Barrels" project in conjunction with the Council Roading Department for Harbour Street seems to be working with vehicle calming and parking. This is a trail with the clusters of moveable barrels.


Thank you to all our Tenants. They are all supportive of one another and are all great people. I will mention them all as they are the Trust's main assets after the buildings. Some of the businesses have been here for over 25 years, like Slightly Foxed Bookshop, Michael O'Brien the Bookbinder, Stuart Catto Woolbuyer, Willetts Furniture, The Penguin Entertainers Club and Donna Demente's Grainstore Gallery. Donna's gallery has also become a very popular entertainment space bringing amazing musicians and entertainers to Oamaru. Other businesses that continue to be a big part in the Precinct are Harbour Street Bakery and Deja Moo, famous for their pies and "cro-nuts," the Collective Cafe, the Movement Hub proving to be very popular with their pilates and exercise groups, bringing a whole new group of locals to the area, Presence on Harbour with an amazing array of giftware, merino wool and possum fur garments, Rose's General store, from old fashioned sweets to Rawleigh's products and everything in between, the Textile Emporium, weaving, knitting and sewing products, the Model Railway Club which recently the Trust has agreed to ensure the work and dedication that has been done by the Club will continue to be enjoyed in the future by young and old by providing a place for the entire setup permanently. The Steam Punk galleries and shops of Studio Realm, Taylomade and Regalia. Brent Harpur with his cartoons and classes, the artists galleries of Kit and Alison, The Loft and Crafted which is working well as an artist's collective, the Glass Room, Housekeepers Design and the Loan and Merc Event Centre, French Treasures, Moke Apparel on the top floor of the Loan and Merc are full to capacity having taken on a major license agreement with a large American clothing company and expanding the Moke brand into Australia and the UK, Vertical Ventures continue to expand with the ongoing popularity of cycling.


We welcome new tenants Dagmar Rohborah with Bigger Picture Oamaru, Nick Guyan furniture restoration and Cycle Journeys. A special mention to our slightly elder tenants of The Stables where the average age is about 85. They all do a great service of opening up The Stables everyday, chatting to everyone that pops in or walks past and they add a touch of maturity to the Precinct! The Trust wishes Michael O'Brien and Lee-Ann Scotti all the best for the Craftwork Brewery re-opening at 10 Harbour Street. Their setup includes a 500 litre craft brewery, barrel aging, tasting room and book bindery all under one roof. Over 40 businesses, all owner operated and interesting, all adding to this great cultural hub that locals and visitors embrace. We are fully tenanted with a waiting list of potential businesses.


Thank you to the Trustees - Frances McElhinney, my Vice Chairperson, with her management experience and problem solving skills, Jane Campbell with her events and fundraising skills, Sue McLean a Tenant of the Trust and the Crafted Collective, her calm and measured input is greatly valued, Richard Vinbrux with is business experience and common sense approach to things, Phil Hope a past Chairman and Vice Chairman and long time supporter of the Precinct. Phil's steady guidance and legal advice has been invaluable to all of us on the Board. Natalie Evans with her sound financial advice and building management experience. I would like to thank Chris Oats our past Treasurer who retired last year and a special thank you to Faye Ormandy who has always been available to ask about anything Trust related.


Both Phil and Natalie are retiring from the Trust tonight and I thank them on behalf of the Trust for their dedication, patience and direction of our Board. Phil has been on the Board for just on 15 years and a lot of the progress that has happened is thanks to him. Natalie has been a steady hand on the finances over several years and kept us on track. We will miss them around the Board table but both have guaranteed us they are only a phone call away for advice. Welcome to Jan Omnet and Brian Harrison. We look forward to working with you both. Jan was an early Council appointed Trustee, so has strong interest in the area and Brian has been volunteering his skills to the Trust for several years.


We have some great projects on the go at the moment with an accessible ablution block to be built on the top floor of the Loan and Merc, a new kitchen to go into the Criterion Hotel and a building management system to be implemented. Thank you to the Waitaki District Council and the Waitaki Heritage Fund for their ongoing support of the Trust. Adaptive reuse of the buildings will guarantee that future generations will continue the work that has been ongoing the last 30 years.


Once again, I will finish my report with the Trust's vision - Preserving Oamaru's Victorian Precinct and developing the building and streets into a destination locals embrace, visitors want to experience and which drives economic growth and community pride. So, in three words Preserve, Protect and Promote.


Thank you



Graeme Clark- Chairman Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust


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

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