Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust Oral Submission – Draft Oamaru Harbour Plan – 2020 and Beyond. Presented to the Waitaki District Council on Monday 14 September 2020
1. The objects of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust (OWCT) include:
“To ensure the preservation, enhancement, renovation and appropriate redevelopment of the Harbour/Tyne Street Historic Precinct of Oamaru Town, its buildings, streets, supporting townscape and harbour environs” (emphasis added).
2. Against that background, OWCT has had a long interest in various plans for the Oamaru Harbour. In particular, OWCT submitted to this current plan process and our Chairman, Graeme Clark was co-opted onto the Harbour Area Committee. We now provide comments in relation to your draft Harbour Plan document dated August 2020.
Vision, Mission and Investment Objectives
3. OWCT supports the vision and mission set out in the draft plan and especially the goal of “protecting and enhancing what makes the Harbour Area special”.
4. The Harbour must remain useable for marine based activities but other developments outside of existing building structures should be treated very cautiously in case the very features that make the Harbour Area special are lost.
5. It is disappointing to see two areas near Scott’s Brewery identified as “possible future development space[s]”. This does not live up to the stated intent of investment objective 2 which refers to “providing a clear outline for the future of the Harbour”. Those areas should be retained for parking.
6. OWCT supports the structural renovation of Sumpter Wharf to make it stable against collapse and to protect it against further deterioration. Council and the community have been aware of this issue for a long time now and this is the time for action.
7. OWCT would have preferred to see Sumpter Wharf usable for public, pedestrian access but the future of the Wharf now appears to be as an exclusive habitat for the Otago Shag. The Harbour Plan needs to ensure this use does not cause further deterioration to the Wharf structure.
8. Work to the Wharf needs to be prioritised and must be carried out with reference to the April 2006 Conservation Report as well as sound, proven heritage conservation principles.
9. The Plan as drafted is light on detail with too many references to “possible” – see page 19. The Harbour Plan needs to move this project to being active and happening with urgency.
Southern Harbour Zone
10. The proposed road realignment behind the North Otago Yacht and Powerboat premises is supported.
11. The penguin colony car parking area does need to be sealed.
12. OWCT believes plans will need to be developed in the future to reduce the number of traffic movements in the Harbour area especially at dusk or after dark. Right now this is not such an issue but in a Covid-19 free world, and a return of international visitors, thought needs to be given to managing this issue.
13. Graves Track is a historical feature of the Harbour area. Repairs and maintenance to the track or a new track development should be given higher priority.
14. OWCT does not support the extension or moving of the rail end platform. Although the specific plans are still being scoped, OWCT is concerned at the impact of this proposal on the existing historic red sheds. We do not believe the stated justification of “… more modern trains that are now occasionally visiting the area” is sufficient for this project to proceed.
15. OWCT appreciates there is a large element of pragmatism in proposing to relocate the penguin colony viewing tower to near Sumpter Wharf. However, this is in our view an example of adhoc planning. If there is a need for a viewing tower near Sumpter Wharf, then careful consideration needs to be given to its design and precise location so it does not detract from existing structures and the overall amenity value of the Harbour area. A relocation of the existing structure is unlikely to meet those criteria.
Holmes Wharf Zone
16. OWCT is pleased to see emphasis placed on redeveloping Holmes Wharf and believes having the buildings on the Wharf improved to allow commercial use (preferably marine uses) is the correct course of action.
17. Care will need to be taken when this work is carried out to recognise the historic nature of the Wharf and the buildings.
18. In completing this work, OWCT recommends Council develop design criteria and guidelines which adopt sound heritage preservation and conservation principles. Once developed, these design criteria and guidelines could be used throughout the Harbour Area by Council and other building owners.
19. Holmes Wharf is already iconic and is a great place to visit. A Wharf end installation is not required to further enhance this.
Market Place Zone
20. OWCT agrees the car parking at Scott’s Brewery needs to be formalised. In doing so we do not wish to see the area for car parking restricted or limited. Visitors to the Harbour Area and to the Heritage Precinct need proximate, ample space for car parking. This is especially so if Harbour Street is to become pedestrianised in the future. Already there are many events or occasions where the available car parking is fully utilised. Any reduction of the available space is not supported.
21. In completing the laying out of the proposed car park areas (including the penguin colony car park) OWCT would not like to see a proliferation of modern traffic signage and painted road markings. Good results could be achieved with more discreet signage and spaces could be delineated with cobbles and timber and preferably using reclaimed materials.
Roading Projects and Tactical Urbanism
22. OWCT believes the connection of the Historic Precinct to lower Thames Street is via Itchen Street and wishes to see this preserved. Rerouting traffic to the Harbour via Tees Street and Wansbeck Street is not supported.
23. OWCT believes Thames Street, especially its width, is a unique feature of the towns heritage landscape. Proposals to reduce lower Thames Street to half of its usual width are not supported. We also do not agree with the idea of realigning the Thames/Itchen/Tees Streets intersection or the development of a plaza, green space or any other proposal to reduce the current width of Thames Street.
24. If Council has a concern about safety at the Thames/Itchen/Tees Streets intersection then OWCT suggests this is best dealt with by lowering speed limits.
25. Overall, the Plan is not clear or specific about roading projects and tactical urbanism proposals. OWCT would strongly support these items being removed from the Plan. However, if they are to remain as part of the Plan, then OWCT would expect Council to consult with it and other interested parties when specific proposals are formulated.
26. Any new wayfinding signage along State Highway 1 and elsewhere, should direct travellers to the Historic Precinct, as well as to the Harbour area.
27. OWCT thanks Council for the opportunity to present these comments and we look forward to your feedback. We remain available to assist Council in formulating a plan to keep the Oamaru Harbour (instead of making it) as the best little harbour in New Zealand.