Historical value of Carisbrook

Previously having been largely a supporter of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, I was somewhat amazed by the executive summary of the report on Carisbrook stadium.

There has been a move by the NZHPT to place some sort of “special significance” order on the place, which quite simply seems to be tantamount to a gagging order. This is no small matter. As stated on page 34 under protection measures:

Should any decision be made that Carisbrook and its facilities not be retained or be downsized as a venue, NZHPT recommends that the land comprising Carisbrook be designated a public reserve pursuant to the Reserves Act 1977, and to be held in Trust for the citizens of Dunedin City. NZHPT recommends that the pitch, turnstile building, a representative section of the Terraces and a representative section of other grandstand structures be retained, and a conservation plan be prepared.

Summary. Build you new stadium, but don’t expect to be able to do anything with the old site, least of all sell it and recover costs. What exactly does the HST expect the fine folk of Dunedin to do with a “representative section of the Terraces”? Do we sit there in weekends and reflect? What a strange and I would suggest somewhat devious conclusion.

What is this suggestion built upon? Well the document by Heather Bauchop and Jonathan Howard on the whole is an excellent historical document of Carisbrook, as one would expect.

However, seemingly the most important aspect of the suggested preservation of Carisbrook is based on Mythology:

“While the majority of the structures associated with Carisbrook are relatively new, as a sporting venue Carisbrook and its associated mythology has outstanding significance in the public imagination and contributes to New Zealand’s national identity.”

I wonder did, the NZHPT spend as much time on Lancaster Park and suggest such radical restrictive measures on the redevelopment of Lancaster Park/AMI Stadium. Because, and this might be astonishing to folk outside of Dunedin, Lancaster Park has its own ‘Mythology’ and aura built upon a strong social and cultural heritage, quite possibly the equal of that of Carisbrook, in the eyes of the fine folk of Canterbury at the very least.

That aside, should we consider the Architectural merits of the building as it stands today. Seemingly the most significant architectural aspect of the building is the Turnstile structure built in 1926.

The report itself suggests that the current Carisbrook is seemingly lacking of architectural significance:

“The street elevations of Carisbrook show a piecemeal approach to the ongoing development of the facilities. Apart from the Corporate Suites building backing the Terraces (and fronting Murrayfield Street) the treatment of the street frontages of the Carisbrook stands are utilitarian and there is very little effort placed on aesthetic treatment apart from the colour schemes.”

It goes on to suggest that Carisbrook also doesn’t take architectural cues in relation to international sports stadia, stating:

“This utilitarian approach is not representative of an international style to grandstand design but perhaps to local conditions.”

‘Utilitarian’ is a somewhat generous description for a stunningly ugly building that pays little or no respect to the surrounding cultural, historical, physical or geographical surrounds. The dour likes of Easter Road, home of Hibernian Football Club in Edinburgh come to mind. One could easily conjure up images of any of the ‘classic’ football grounds designed by the legendary Archie Leitch, to see how insular these buildings can be.

So what they are effectively are saying, is that apart from a set of old turnstiles (which are decrepit) this structure lacks any significant architectural value, not reflecting any international design significance. Indeed there are two stands (1959 and 1965) which are of any significant age, with the rest of the structure dating from the 1990s.

So the Architecture isn’t significant or attractive, with utilitarian seemingly the best adjective to describe to old place (don’t forget the turnstiles).

However the document does make the claim:

“Carisbrook has special historical significance. In the history of New Zealand sport, it ranks as one of the most significant provincial venues”

Well that is alongside Lancaster Park (previously Jade Stadium and now AMI Stadium) in Christchurch and Eden Park in Auckland. It’s ‘one of the most’, well yes of course it is. But that place ‘Carisbrook’ is more assumed as a narrative or ‘mythical’ place encapsulating events rather than a specific locale or stadium per say. It’s not the oldest sports ground of significance, that honour is held by the grand old Basin Reserve.

What of these other “significant provincial venues”? Well AMI stadium, despite having a history more or less equally long (1880) and holding many significant events and containing a rich cultural and sporting heritage doesn’t hold any NZHPT classification. Among the events held at the old Lancaster Park, Trotting (horse racing), Australian Amateur Swimming Championships 1907. “The biggest event in New Zealands tennis history was held at Lancaster Park when Australasia played America in the Davis Cup final” (1912)* {link}. In 1950 Roger Bannister ran the fastest ever mile run at the Centennial Games in 1950, at the time the biggest Athletics meeting of its kind in the southern hemisphere. In 1959 over 50,000 people attended the US Evangalist Billy Graham’s public meeting. Peter Snell set a new world record for the half mile in 1962. U2 and BB King played a massive concert there in 1989 (what a night, I still have the memories), followed in 1991 by Dire Straits, Tina Turner and again U2 with their Zooropa tour. Besides the Basketball, softball, tennis, swimming, potato farming and other almost countless sporting and cultural events, this stadium hasn’t been served the same ‘gagging’ order sought buy the NZHPT?

As for Carisbrook, it seems that a memory or ethereal feeling about the place is more important than the bricks and mortar:

“While the majority of the structures associated with Carisbrook are relatively new, the special significance of Carisbrook lies with the years of sporting history and culture that have taken place on the pitch, and in the memories of the thousands of sports fans who have passed through the turnstile building into the grounds.”

Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that the Historic Places Trust is any way trying to sway public opinion of the matter about further Carisbrook Development or the possibility of the Awatea St Stadium development, it has however drawn criticism for this document from quarters, and I can really see why.

If they get their way, the likelihood of the Dunedin City Council getting any significant money for the sale of the land and chattels, will be greatly negated. I would suggest a developer could include some of the more ‘significant’ architectural structures, the turnstiles, into future developments, it’s been done around the world (old Highbury Stadium, now apartments with common garden as the old pitch). It’s certainly one way to retain the historical significance of the place. As for retaining parts of the terraces and stands, really?

NZHPT recommendations:

“To ensure the long-term conservation of this place, the NZHPT recommends –
• That Dunedin City Council adds Carisbrook to its District Plan Schedule 25.1: List of Heritage Buildings and Structures etc.
• Should any decision be made that Carisbrook and its facilities not be retained or be downsized as a venue, NZHPT recommends that the land comprising Carisbrook be designated a public reserve pursuant to the Reserves Act 1977, and to be held in Trust for the citizens of Dunedin City. NZHPT recommends that the pitch, turnstile building, a representative section of the Terraces and a representative section of other grandstand structures be retained, and a conservation plan be prepared.”

Summary, lock the old place up, and severely restrict any future development. For the sake of taking this city forward, lets retain these ‘mythical’ memories of Carisbrook, heck I’ll even buy you a copy of Scarfies if you want the memories of the terraces to live longer, but do not gag the city from development. Carisbrook is not and will not be the only sports stadium, with significant cultural and sporting heritage to go by the way side, this is not a bad thing.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust registration report (c/- StS)

Posted by Paul Le Comte


Filed under Architecture, Design, Inspiration, Site, Stadiums

9 responses to “Historical value of Carisbrook

  1. Peter Entwisle

    You’re losing it Paul.

    There is no such thing as a “special significance” order and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, so far from imposing any “gagging order”, invited comment on its proposal to register Carisbrook as a category 1 historic place.

    Your summary of the proposal “Build your stadium, but don’t expect to be able to do anything with the old site” misreads the trust as a player in local politics. It isn’t. It is a Crown agency which responds to outside prompts by seeing if suggested places qualify for registration and registering them if they do.

    Carisbrook is a shoo-in because of what has happened there, all those national and international matches, not because of its outstanding architecture. As a supporter of the trust, as you say you are, you should know that. The reason Lancaster Park isn’t registered is simply because no-one has proposed it.

    You should call by the trust’s Dunedin branch office, in Princes Street, get a pamphlet and find out how it works.

  2. Peter, I have plenty of personal friends involved for years with the HST, and am well aware how it works.

    The HST has always been a quasi political body by the very fact that as you say, it’s an arm of the crown, and it can make decisions with far reaching political consequences, even if it is completely neutral.

  3. Meg Davidson

    If you know so much about the HPT, (I guess this is what you mean when you refer to HST) how can you make such claims as “Summary, lock the old place up, and severely restrict any future development”…? If your HPT friends are reading this they must be cringing.

  4. Meg.

    Is this really being constructive. This is the very exact reason I was reluctant to open any comments up on this blog, or even take the discussion outside of the original intention of talking about stadium development, from a nuts and bolts point of view, and leaving the politics out of this completely.

    The views I express about the HPT report were also expressed by the council, and you know very well than any serious category listing of Carisbrook would hinder future development or demolition.

  5. Peter

    Of course HPT registration will hinder potential development, as the DCC’s submission to the HPT indicates:

    “Redevelopment at Carisbrook
    In a few years time, Carisbrook Stadium may be replaced by the planned new stadium at Awatea Street. If this happens, the Carisbrook site will need to be redeveloped so that it can continue to contribute to the economy of South Dunedin. The Council is concerned that the proposed registration of Carisbrook as a Category I Historic Place may curtail future redevelopment opportunities at the Carisbrook site.
    Although registration as an Historic Place does not confer any direct legal protection on land or buildings, Historic Place status generally leads to properties being listed in District Plan Schedule 25.1, and thus protected under District Plan rules and the Resource Management Act 1991. It is the Council’s practice to request the approval of the landowner before putting a property forward for addition to the schedule through a plan change. However, the Council is concerned that the NZHPT or any other party may make a submission on a forthcoming change to the Townscape section of the District Plan, requesting that Carisbrook be added to the Schedule, regardless of the position of its owners. A submission of this type would clearly have greater weight if Carisbrook had been registered as a Category I Historic Place.
    If Carisbrook Stadium were added to the schedule, resource consent for a non-complying activity would need to be obtained prior to removing or demolishing the turnstile building. It is by no means certain that such a consent would be granted. The proposed registration may therefore lead to a situation in which it would not be possible to remove the Carisbrook turnstile building from the site in order to make way for future redevelopment. As a result, the site could be left underused or vacant, with damaging consequences for the finances of the owners, and for South Dunedin as a whole.
    Alternative means of recognising the history of Carisbrook
    The Council believes that alternative steps could be taken to recognise the history of Carisbrook without hindering redevelopment in this part of the city. For example, a street or subsequent development could be named for the stadium, and/or a plaque or monument could be erected at the site. Alternatively, the turnstile building could be retained and relocated, for preservation elsewhere.”

  6. Peter Entwisle

    If the DCC wanted to stop the registration of Carisbrook as a category 1 historic place it would have to argue either that it didn’t have the objective characteristics attributed to it or that the ones listed didn’t fit the criteria. They haven’t even attempted to do that.

    Instead they have argued that registration might adversely affect its redevelopment. That is the sort of irrelevant contention a developer brings to such discussions. It is remarkable the city is so forgetful of its role as protector of the heritage in its area which gives it a primary duty before that as a developer.

    Moreover they have misread the scope of the protection suggested by the registration. It would really only extend to the turnstile building which occupies a very small part of the whole.

    Also, removal of a historic building from its original site is a second-rate way of protecting as the council should know from its experiences with the old art gallery building at Logan Park and the causeway at the Wall Street development.

    The city’s submission reveals an organisation sadly out of touch with its statutory responsibilites, the hierarchy of its roles, or even the significance of its recent conviction under the New Zealand Historic Places Act, on August 5th.

  7. Peter Entwisle

    Paul said:

    “The HST has always been a quasi political body by the very fact that as you say, it’s an arm of the crown, and it can make decisions with far reaching political consequences, even if it is completely neutral.”

    (By “HST” he means “HPT” acronym for the Historic Places Trust.)

    The HPT’s decisions can have significant political consequences just as the judiciary’s can – although I can’t think of one by the HPT recently. But it is not a political or quasi-political entity any more than the judiciary is.

    The city council’s reaction to the proposed registration of Carisbrook, also to its proposed registration of the Athenaeum, is that it is aiding and abetting individuals, Lee Vandervis and Peter Entwisle, who are pursuing their own political agendas trying to thwart the council’s initiatives. It is true Lee was one of the nominees of Carisbrook’s registration, as I was for the Athenaeum, but the trust was simply doing its statutory duty of looking at the suggestions and seeing if either merited registration. If their proposals were obviously faulty you could argue they were politically inspired. But they aren’t faulty and the city hasn’t even attempted to try to argue that they are. The idea that the trust is acting politically is without foundation.

  8. Elizabeth

    In August 2008, I missed all the ‘historic place’ action on this thread, then too I might have been in a similar debate on the StS website where we made sure to post the link to NZHPT’s registration proposal for Carisbrook.

    Recommended links:

    Carisbrook: NZHPT register entry (2008)

    Carisbrook: Full registration report (2008)

    On 26 September 2008 the NZHPT Board approved Category I registration status for Carisbrook, reflecting the special or outstanding historical and cultural heritage significance and value of the place.

    In a press release, the trust’s Otago/Southland area manager Owen Graham said the registration underlined the importance the site had in Dunedin’s heritage.

    “Carisbrook has worldwide recognition as a sporting venue. When you mention Carisbrook to people around the world the immediate link to Dunedin is made. It’s as much a part of our city as the university, the statue of Robbie Burns, and the magnificent railway station.”

    “The registration has a lot to do with the physicality of the place and significance of the place to people.”

    Mr Graham said, “The Otago Rugby Football Union’s submission – as Carisbrook’s owner – on the registration explained it well by saying they ‘could not dispute its significance in New Zealand sports history and the role that plays in the identity of New Zealanders’.”

    “Although the needs and pressures facing Carisbrook’s owner might result in change to its existing use, it is important to the community that Carisbrook’s character is retained for the benefit of generations to come.”

    The trust believes alternative redevelopment options such as creating a public reserve area merit full discussion.

    The registration does not provide protection for the international sports ground. Protection comes when local authorities take the lead and list registered buildings on their district plans.

    Dunedin City Council has declared it is firmly opposed to [District Plan] scheduling of Carisbrook as it would be likely to “curtail future redevelopment opportunities at the site”.


    We now know the Council will purchase Carisbrook. The plot thickens as to Carisbrook’s future or fate!

  9. Elizabeth

    According to Channel 9 news, and to feature in Thursday’s ODT, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust has called for a debate on the future of Carisbrook.

    ***Elizabeth Kerr is a former Otago branch chair of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (2000 – 2008).

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