Demo by neglect? Save the facade?


### ODT Online Thu, 13 Jan 2011
Building’s fate in doubt after parapets collapse
By Chris Morris
The fate of one of central Dunedin’s oldest commercial buildings hangs in the balance after two separate sections collapsed in clouds of crumbling masonry within hours of each other yesterday.
Read more

### ODT Online Thu, 13 Jan 2011
Tears over wrecked ‘second home’
By Chris Morris
A pile of smashed masonry and timber was enough to bring tears to the eyes of Dragon Cafe waitress Lyn Kennedy in Dunedin yesterday. The central city cafe – an institution since opening in 1958 – had become Ms Kennedy’s “second home” since she began work there as a waitress in 1961.
Read more


12 January 2010. This morning the roof collapsed of the 1875 brick building housing the well-known late night eaterie, Dragon Cafe, at 175 Rattray Street, Dunedin. By the afternoon the facade parapet had also collapsed, destroying the verandah below. What if? awaits council updates on the condition of the central city building.

### Updated at 1:48pm on 12 January 2011
Collapse of building in Dunedin
Parts of Rattray Street will be closed for most of Wednesday. Dunedin City Council says power has now been returned to buildings in Rattray Street, except for the one that collapsed.
The council says it advised the owner of the building earlier this week, to have it looked at by an engineer.
Read more

@five15design I was at the Southern Cross at the weekend and noticed the #DragonCafe parapet was looking ominously cracked
(via @JohnAshcroft, 7 hours ago)

### Wed, 12 Jan 2011 6:20p.m.
Collapse could force closure of iconic diner
By Annabelle Jackman
Part of a historic building has collapsed in central Dunedin, forcing the evacuation of two hotels and a number of businesses.By midday work had begun to stabilise loose bricks. Hopes rose that the building might be salvageable, but the latest collapse is making the future of one of Dunedin’s oldest commercial buildings far from certain. But the Dragon may be lucky – further engineering assessments will be carried out in the coming weeks and the building’s future decided then.
Read more + Video

### ODT Online Wed, 12 Jan 2011
Roof cave-in closes Dunedin cafe
Dunedin’s Dragon Cafe could be closed for several weeks after parapets above it started collapsing this morning.
Read more

Post and photographs by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Heritage

128 responses to “Demo by neglect? Save the facade?

  1. Elizabeth

    The owner of 175 Rattray St is listed as Anchorage Properties Ltd, according to DCC rates information. The NZ Companies Office gives the directors of the company by name.

    The Department of Building and Housing has recently introduced new rules streamlining demolition (following the Canterbury earthquake).

  2. David M

    This building was built in 1875 and designed by that brilliant architect HF Hardy. I nominated it as an Historic Place in 2009 but the nomination is still sitting in their backlog. I’ve long thought it a glaring omission from the District Plan schedule, although that has holes you can (and they do) drive bulldozers through. The detailing on the facade is simply wonderful. Unusual use of acanthus leaf and guilloche. There is a description in the Otago Daily Times of 13 February 1875,–1874—1875–10–1–on–0%22

    The Dragon Cafe has been there since about 1959/1960. For a few decades prior to that it was the Hasty Tasty Cafe, I think the only eatery allowed to be open at certain late hours. It was orginally built for William Barron, of Banks, Barron & Co. It was long known as Barron’s Building, and later as Thomson’s Building. There were butchers in there at some point, and all sorts of interesting people (lawyers, architects, musicians) had rooms in the upper floors. If we lose this one it is a tragedy, and a failure on the part of the city. The long neglect is inexcusable.

  3. David M

    It’s worth noting that the Crown Hotel next door was also designed by Hardy. It has been stripped back.

  4. Elizabeth

    ### Last updated 12:16 12/01/2011
    Hotel evacuated after Dunedin building collapse
    By Wilm McCorkindale – D Scene
    A Dunedin building which began collapsing early this morning is to be demolished, police say. The building, on Rattray St in the central city, had part of its roof and two walls cave in overnight. Police, fire and council inspectors had cordoned off the area and evacuated the neighbouring Crown Hotel.
    Read more

    (via Twitter)

  5. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Wed, 12/01/2011 – 11:06am.
    Comment by dmurray on Neglect
    This very fine building was designed by the great HF Hardy and built in 1875. It is a very important piece of Dunedin history but has been suffering from neglect for many years. It was nominated as an Historic Place with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 2009, but the paperwork still sits in their backlog.

    • Elizabeth

      ### 12/01/2011 11:44:00
      Legendary Dunedin cafe to be demolished
      The Dragon Cafe in Dunedin has been served a demolition notice after part of the top story of the building collapsed this morning. A demolition notice has been served on one of Dunedin’s most legendary haunts.
      Read more

    • Elizabeth

      In answer to David, which is no answer at all – property neglect is legal in New Zealand until it poses a threat to public health and safety. Various contributors to What if? have commented on this previously and pointed out potential remedies, as available in other countries.

      • Elizabeth


        “The owner is going to demolish part of the front parapet and some front wall also most of the left hand side parapet (looking from the street). The roof framing is rotten and has contributed to this collapse. All of Rattray Street is blocked off and there will be a crane there ASAP.”

        Maybe not a full demolition – and some chance of help in getting it fixed?

  6. David M

    Fingers crossed – they’re saving worse in Christchurch?

  7. Stu

    I had the delight of working in a stately old villa on George St today, recently and nicely converted into studio rooms. As I was cabling up in the roof space, I got a text from an acquaintance bemoaning his “leaky home” built less than 10 years ago. And I got to wondering how come we could build substantial buildings 100 years ago and these days we get cheap crap MDF and tilt-slab concrete…?

    P.S. lath and plaster walls with no dwangs are far far easier to run network cable in after the fact than modern timber frame/gib construction.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Thu, 13 Jan 2011
      Bid to achieve historic places status recognition in 2009
      By Debbie Porteous
      The Rattray St building that partially collapsed yesterday was built in 1875 by Henry Hardy, who also built the Crown Hotel next door and the former ODT building in Dowling St. Dunedin archivist David Murray nominated it as a historic place in 2009, but the nomination has not yet been processed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
      Read more

  8. Richard

    Great photographs, Paul. You follow in the footsteps of those who made such a great photographic record of Dunedin over the years.

    Yes, this building has a long history. I recall some photographs of this building when it housed the DIC? I emphasise photographs. I only remember the DIC in its Princes Street/Octago location.

    For many years in the 1950s and 1960s, the office of a Mr Thomson, who was – I think – a Crown Solicitor, was on the first or second floor. Last time I actually closely looked at the building, I could still make out his name signwritten on a window or two on the first floor.

    And like most others of my generation, I knew The Dragon Cafe quite well and the many great steaks I enjoyed. That was many years ago though!

    To add to the record, the NZ Herald had a report with video up yesterday. It can be accessed at:

  9. Great pics Elizabeth, great vantage point you had

    • Elizabeth

      Paul – the best place in town to view derelict roofs and old building fabric, two carpark areas in Dowling St next to the old Salvation Army citadel, now the backpackers. In that gale yesterday we all nearly went over the edge, very unpleasant and no ground anchors ):

  10. David M

    Richard, I understand the DIC was the next building along towards Princes Street, where the N & ES Paterson building now stands. It is easy to confuse as it was also three storyed with round-headed windows. It was completed in 1892 (being additions to existing buildings coming right through from High Street). It was a slightly taller building than Barron’s Building.

  11. Richard

    Thanks David M. Yes, on second thoughts I agree. But I have Mr Thomson correct!

    And I have been trying to think exactly where Fort Roche was. The building to the west of the old N&ES Paterson? My boss in my early working days liked their pies for his lunch and as ‘the junior in the office’, I would frequently be sent to buy them.

    Rattray Street was a busy place in those days!

  12. Richard

    Great photographs, Elizabeth!

    My apologies. I just read Paul’s name at the foot of the post. Now I note there are two threads running with the same pix!

  13. David M

    Yes Richard, Fort, Roche & Co were in the Barron’s Building, I’ve seen a photograph of the building showing their signage and truck outside c.1910s. Were those pork pies? Thomson bought the building in 1926 and his papers at the Hocken include some information about the building.

  14. Hi David et al, loving the cultural history commentary of this city. Much appreciated

  15. Richard

    Right, got it now. Fort Roche one side, the Hasty Tasty a la Dragon on the other. No, beef pies as I remember. Well that is what my boss liked anyway.

    I refer on my own website to Eddie Chin’s dream of turning Rattray into Chinatown (circa 1980). One can only wonder!

  16. David M

    One very sad piece of history, a 22 year old law clerk shot himself dead in a room on the top floor of the building on 23 December 1901. Tenants in the upstairs rooms pre-1900 included artists, tailors, dressmakers, music teachers, an estate agent, and a jeweller. The Tailoress’s Union and the Caledonian Society had offices in the building. The architects JL Salmond and Owen Macfie both had rooms in the building for a time, as did lawyer WC Macgregor. Fort Roche were well known as pork butchers, hence my question to Richard.

    • Elizabeth

      Paul, a practice is to put ‘former’ or ‘old’ (or ‘formerly known as’) in front of a building’s name if the ownership or naming rights have subsequently changed in view of the anchor tenancy (see the difference too between naming rights or popular nomenclature). Thus we would say the old Barron’s Building or old Barron Building – or indeed ‘Dragon Cafe’, as it might be assumed these days without onus or blame on the tenant. The property owner Anchorage Properties Ltd appears not to have ascribed an alternative – perhaps we’re left with ‘the building at 175 Rattray Street’.

      • Elizabeth

        ### Updated at 9:35 am today
        Summer Report
        Cordon still in place at scene of collapsed building
        Rattray Street, one of the busiest in Dunedin, remains cordoned off on Thursday after part of a building collapsed. The wall and roof of the three-story building fell down just before 9am on Wednesday. Sixteen people in a nearby hotel had to be evacuated. Dunedin City Council says the cause of the collapse is not yet known. However, chief building control officer, Neil McLeod told Summer Report that lack of maintenance may have been a contributing factor. He said the onus is on the owner of the building to organise safety checks, not the council.
        RNZ Link + Audio (interview with Neil McLeod, DCC chief building control officer)

  17. Phil Cole

    Great reading the history behind this small (but not insignificant) building.

    Stu…I guess that’s what happens these days when everything is mass-produced, the regulations are too restrictive (you must use this…you must do it like that) and most people want to build the cheapest and quickest way to maximise profits. Of course, in those days you had all kinds of people with skills that are now long gone whose work was checked for quality – now, you are lucky if you get a building inspector along (and these poor people are down to a bare minimum, all in the name of ‘efficency’ and ‘financial pressures’). We reap what we sow…the roof above the ‘Nood’ shop just round the corner collapsed a few months ago too. (Does this mean that all ‘heritage’ buildings, at least those that have been ‘neglected’, should be inspected urgently, at least by Council inspectors, and charge the ‘owners’ for their time?)

    I used to walk along under that shop front many times to work…now as I walk along Princes Street / George Street and look up at the plethoria of heritage buildings I wonder which building will be next. Although these old buildings are wonderful to look at above eye level (and so much history ‘written’ in the facades) it does raise the question just how safe are these facades? As has already been mentioned on this string of comments, the facades of these buildings were ‘tied’ into the main structure and once these ties are compromised then what happened to 175 Rattray Street happens. The same thing used to happen back in London in the 1970s when I was growing up.

    As Elizabeth mentions, property neglect is legal under NZ law until it becomes a H&S issue. I love old buildings – I lived in enough of them when I grew up – but, like all buildings, they will only last (or be designed to last) for a certain amount of time. Unless extensive (and expensive) renovations are carried out, they will deteriorate.

    I guess the question is, how much do we want to retain these iconic and historic heritage buildings around Dunedin? In an ideal world, the council would buy up the properties, renovate them and then lease them out to recover their cost. However, we have to hope that a sympathetic developer will buy up the buildings and renovate them in the appropriate manner. Otherwise, we get private individuals (or ‘trusts’) trying to make a buck who cannot afford the general upkeep and events such as 175 Rattray Street happen.

    If the mortar had deteriorated that much (as in 175 Rattray Street) then that is a Dunedin-wide concern for buildings of a similar age.

  18. Richard

    Phil C: the number of building inspectors at the DCC was increased about 18 months ago to deal with the increased (and pretty stringent) requirements of The Building Act. With the drop in Building Consents the planned maximum number of additional appointments did not need to be met but there are still more inspectors on staff than there were previously. The usual critics had ‘a go at council’ – of course – for putting on additional staff!

    As has been identified, the powers of councils are tied to those granted them by law, i.e. Parliament. Hence the special legislation that needed to be passed in regard to the Christchurch Quake.

  19. Phil

    Much of the recent increase in Building Inspector numbers is due to the new requirement for a greater level of reporting in the revised Building Act. Not for a greater number of inspections. In fact, site inspections will decrease with the full introduction of the Licensed Building Practioners scheme. This will essentially have contractors signing off on their own work, without inspections being required. In the way that electricians, gasfitters and specialist consultants, such as structural steel, sign off on their own work today.

    In summary, while there are now more Building Inspectors than ever, they are more deskbound.

  20. Stu

    Hopefully it is common practice among those trades to have a senior of the company sign off the work done, not just a self-inspection by the person who did the work…

  21. Phil

    The way the scheme works is that individuals are licensed, not the company. They don’t have to actually do the work, but they have to supervise the work and sign it off as correct. Roof cladding is one example of work required a certified person to sign off. A large company like, say, Naylor Love, might have only one person licensed to certify roof cladding. That person will essentially move from site to site, signing off the work as completed.

    I recall something in a trade magazine some time back that this process would reduce the amount of inspections by local authority Building Inspectors by as much as 70%.

    If the scheme stays in place long term, I can see it changing the construction processes. Developers and contractors may work together on various projects, timing the restricted work items of work to fit in with a certified person’s schedule. If you were a clever and well qualified builder, you could attain certification credentials in a number of key areas, and spend the rest of your life as a free lance certifier. Which does sound a little scarily like the private builder inspector scheme which contributed to the leaky building disasters.

  22. Richard

    Phil: The ones “out in the field” though are all equipped with the electronic gear fitted in the back of the Suzuki’s (or whatever) to enable them to do the ‘paperwork’ on the spot.

  23. Richard

    Anyway that is all a bit academic. What has happened on-site today? The news has sort of (well) just stopped. Not even a beep at ODT Online.

    • Elizabeth

      I’m reliably informed that the owner, engineers and NZHPT officials met for discussion Thursday. Waiting to hear from the insurers. Time for talk, hopefully balanced talk while, as Paul says, making the structure safe meantime. Unless the whole thing implodes it will be next week before anything is sure.

  24. Phil

    It would be a shame to lose it. Good designs never go out of fashion.

  25. David M

    Some history on the butchery referred to. This was on the Crown Hotel side of the ground floor. It began with the Dunedin Pork & Poultry Co. in about 1905, this became Guest & Co., and from about 1911 Fort, Roche & Co. It continued under that name until about 1970, when it became M.M.M. Meats. The butchery appears to have moved to 143 Rattray Street (where Barton’s had previously had a branch) around 1981. Maybe someone can confirm this – my only source of information for this is old directories.

  26. Richard

    Barton’s certainly had a shop on the south side of Rattray Street closer to (what was known as) Customhouse Square and mistakenly referred to by most as ‘The Exchange’. I cannot quite place where though as the buildings are long gone. There are many members of the Barton family still living in Dunedin who should be able to confirm.

    There was also a Fort, Roche shop in The Octagon about where Nova now is.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Fri, 14 Jan 2011
      More buildings at risk, engineer says
      By Debbie Porteous
      More buildings in Dunedin’s central city are likely to be in a similar state of decay to the Rattray St building that partially collapsed on Wednesday, and the worst should be easy for the council to identify and inspect, a Dunedin structural engineer says.

      Mr Macknight said while Dunedin had a large stock of historic buildings, probably fewer than 10 in the central city were of great concern in terms of being dangerous, and they were not hard to pick.

      Read more


      Briefly, contractors are removing most of the building to the level of the top storey windowsills. The roof structure will be removed where possible, and secured; the facade will be propped up, and the building made watertight. The owner may not have ‘seen any outward indication the brickwork in the building was about to collapse’…

      Replacing a roof ‘within the last six years’ isn’t strengthening a building necessarily, although it might have been of assistance in preventing earlier building collapse, or possibly aiding the collapse, who knew. The claim about ‘other maintenance was regularly done to the building’ might well have been changing light bulbs, got to watch these sort of claims. The building’s parapets have collapsed, suggesting no educated eyes on the ball. And we know about the birds.

      ### ODT Online Fri, 14 Jan 2011
      Roadway closed for week
      By Debbie Porteous
      Two sections of the Rattray St building, with a rateable value of $355,000, collapsed on Wednesday, and a section of the street outside the building at No 175 will remain closed to traffic for up to a week. By then it is hoped the the former commercial warehouse will be considered safe. It will be a week before the fate of a 135-year-old building that partially collapsed in central Dunedin will be known.
      Read more

  27. Phil Cole

    Richard – thanks for the additional info about building inspectors…I can well imagine the look of despair on your face in trying to point out the finer points of employing more staff to the ‘critics’…:)

    To all – am I right in saying that several years ago there was an attempt to register Dunedin as a ‘World Heritage Site’ or something on those lines? If this had been successful, would the DCC have more ‘stringent’ powers – i.e. in the form of ‘by-laws’ – to make sure all heritage buildings, including privately owned ones, were kept in an acceptable condtion? If so, is it worth thinking about registering for this status again? Just a thought…

    • Elizabeth

      Phil C – it may have been Peter Entwisle who promoted that idea for World Heritage Site status, based on recogition of the Kettle (Survey) Plan, circa 1846, which has not been altered by the physical construction of the city all that much up to the present day. However, whether it was his or someone else’s idea it never flew. Firstly, I think Peter was after a New Zealand Historic Places Trust registration of the ‘historic’ place or area that the Kettle Plan covers, particularly in view of the inner city. Going for WHS status or NZHPT registration would be a recognition complicated extraordinarily by infrastructural issues and public and private property matters – certainly, registration was never considered realistic but it was intriguing.

      There was also a nomination for First Church to receive WHS status, organised by the church minister at the time (only a few years ago), but that didn’t fire. Achieving the status is extremely arduous given the worldwide compass and extent of competition and priority. Oamaru people got organised to nominate their harbourside and whitestone area but will need to do more work on their nomination it has been said; Christchurch is/was thinking about it (came up prior to local body elections…). NZHPT successfully registered the Lyttelton Township Historic Area, see


      I like to think Dunedin can be more proactive for heritage retention voluntarily and by public good incentive, rather than stick it to investors with heavy bureaucratic red tape, since the Building Act is bad enough but for good reason. The council has been moving some practical distance towards voluntary networking and streamlining processes in the last year and a half – all to the good for historic heritage.

      DCC is also currently reviewing district plan policy and provisions in respect to heritage.

  28. Calvin Oaten

    Phil, laudable as it might seem, if a ‘World Heritage Site’ was registered over early Dunedin’s infrastructure and as a result of that, the DCC was given more powers to see that all properties (including private ones) were suitably maintained, then who in their right mind, would wish to own them? Negative thinking perhaps, but it could spell the end of all old buildings for good and all. All done under the best of intentions. The problem with the Rattray St building is one of economics. If the building was viable the problem would not have arisen. It would have been maintained – even improved – over the years. The same applies to all the other structures in the same position. The problem is a shrinking city, not one of lack of desire. How that is resolved is the $60 million question. Not one any recent council has shown any aptitude to address. Reviewing district plan policy in respect to heritage, other than a brief moment of ‘feel good’ will do nothing to solve it.

    • Elizabeth

      Calvin – there’s a lot happening right under your very eyes, for the advocacy and protection of historic heritage in Dunedin at the present time. Of course it doesn’t all happen through Dunedin City Council, why should it. There is an educated and committed community at work, and there will always be more that residents and investors can do to keep the side up – cumulatively, any earthquakes or falling roofs considered meanwhile, the outlook is positive if not outstanding. All economics considered. Maintaining historic heritage makes good economic sense and is well proven. For someone who is hard to surprise, possibly, I think you would be surprised. What the media covers is hardly the story – nor is an instance with one or ten threatened buildings.

  29. Phil Cole

    Good point, Calvin. As a lover of old buildings, and a realist, I am often caught between the ‘good intentions’ of keeping old buildings, and the realisation of old buildings having a ‘design life’ and the application, I guess, of Darwins ‘survival of the fittest’ (in this case, those that have been well maintained and renovated).

    The realisation, whether we like it or not, is that if nothing is done the events of 175 Rattray Street will be repeated elsewhere around Dunedin over the next few years. That will be a great shame. Most of the ‘modern’ buildings that have replaced original buildings in the past leave a blight on the landscape – just thinking about the DCC Council Offices as one such building!

    Only by the DCC buying and restoring these old buildings will this be addressed. The cost, however will surely be prohibitive. But it could make a start by helping those developers who have a genuine desire to renovate and restore these fine buildings – just look at what Mr Macknight has done to the Bing Harris building and the buildings along Princes Street by the Exchange – in whatever practical ways they can.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post on this subject string (and alluded to in the report in the ODT this morning) it doesn’t make great reading to know that there are probably other buildings around Dunedin in a similar condition – I guess we’ll find out which buildings they are over the next year or two as they collapse!

  30. Phil Cole

    Elizabeth – Thanks for those links and your considered response that I wholeheartedly agree with.

  31. Calvin Oaten

    Elizabeth and Phil, Yep! you’re both correct. However, it still gets back to economics. Emotion and sentiment won’t work. Look, Europe is full of old structures, maintained, revered and treasured. But you can also, if you wished find untold numbers of derelict ruins of once equally fine buildings, cathedrals etc. Why, because the towns, villages and shires had become uneconomic and populations diminished or left. Probably due to all manner of reasons. Worked out mines, fields worked out and unproductive, climate changes, pestilence and plagues. A constantly evolving societal thing. Why do you think Auckland has gotten so big while Dunedin has languished? Better to concentrate on what is realistically salvageable than spreading the net too wide and end up saving nothing. Whether we like it or not Dunedin will revert to the mean, things and places always do. A law of nature which won’t be foiled. Phew! Did I say that?

  32. Phil

    A bit delayed here, Richard. Sorry about that. I understand about the the PDA equipment that the BCOs have with them out in the field. A smart move to save double handling of information. Certainly saves time for them. I was really only addressing the potential misconception that the more than doubling of the number of BCOs within DCC means that there are more inspectors out in the field carrying out more site inspections. But that’s not the case. The introduction of Licensed Building Practitioners by DBH has considerably reduced the number of site inspections required by local authorities. It’s the changes to the levels of paperwork reporting in the Building Act that has resulted in more staff. The little site checklist ticking can be done from the back of the car, agreed. But that’s just the tip of the paperwork iceberg that’s required today. Which can’t be completed in the car.

    I should say that I’m in favour of the improvements in the Building Act. There’s now a greater pressure on developers to submit a more thorough application and to follow the agreed building consent. Up until now, the finished article could vary greatly from the plans and specifications lodged for a building consent. Now, in theory, the local authority will hold the documentation which accurately portrays what has actually been built. A developer becomes liable for some years after completion for any variation between the documentation held by a local authority and what has actually been built. The responsibility shifts more to the developer to ensure that the local authority has correct and accurate approved documentation.

    An example of these changes would be if you applied for a buildng consent to remodel your bathroom. You quite like the idea of having a hot tub in your bathroom. Not 100% sure, but you’ll include it in the consent and see how you feel at the time. When it comes time, you decide against the hot tub idea. To cover yourself, you should apply for a variation to your building consent. Submitting revised plans for approval showing the bathroom without a hot tub (which is why we need 13 more BCOs). Paying for the variation request and stopping work on site until the variation has been approved. But you don’t. You then sell your renovated house. Two years later, that person sells the house to me. I stroll into the the Building Control office and ask to see the plans for the house. I see that there’s a hot tub shown on the plans. But I see no hot tub in my bathroom. I can then hunt you down and demand that you install a hot tub into my bathroom.

    A bit of an silly case, but it addresses the current problem of developers rushing through their design process in order to gain a building consent, with half-arsed plans and specifications, without fully thinking it through. Knowing that they can just make changes along the way. Leaving Building Control with a set of plans which are completely worthless. Having to apply to vary a Building Consent will cost developers time and money. Neither of which they want to spend. So they will spend more time before they start in making sure that their initial design is correct and complete. Which is good news for insurers and property buyers.

  33. Richard

    I have a recollection of a report commissioned by the DCC from OCTA (in 2007?) in which Jane Loten identified the old buildings in Rattray Street as being in an advanced state of decay and situated “in an area of crime and halfway houses”. Or something like that. Elizabeth may well be able to “unearth it” and post a link?

    • Elizabeth

      Richard, I remember (Loten’s) rather spurious comments in that regard so I must have read or heard the report at the time. I can’t find any record of it at the DCC website but have no leads as to which committee or department of council the report was produced for or what it was measuring. Do you know?

      What if? doesn’t carry a link to the report since it was likely produced before I arrived at What if?.

      Loten, a resource management consultant, works for Opus International Consultants (Dunedin) – although it’s possible she has worked for Octa Associates at some time. She has a doctorate in clinical biochemistry and a law degree, is a member of the Resource Management Law Association of New Zealand, and (for better or worse) is the grand-daughter of Ernest Rutherford, the first New Zealander to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

  34. Anonymous

    Well, 175 Rattray is pretty much straight across the road from Lucky 7…

    • Elizabeth

      Work on stabilising the building has been progressing well but will be stopped over the weekend. The staff of CPG New Zealand Ltd will build structural steel supports which will be transported to Rattray St to stabilise the facade. Removal of bricks from the facade will resume on Monday. Rattray St is reopened to one lane of traffic during the weekend.

      ### ODT Online Sat, 15 Jan 2011
      Parapet failure spurs safety policy concern
      By John Lewis
      Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says public safety is paramount and it is “not unlikely” the Dunedin City Council will look at a change of policy to make sure the city’s historic buildings are structurally sound.
      Read more

      • Elizabeth

        In reply to bensan at ODT:

        ### ODT Online Sat, 15/01/2011 – 2:30pm.
        Comment by goblin on Ignorance prevalent about historic buildings
        Please do not pass out generalisations like that. My family own 2 historic buildings, one of which I am restoring, one which is in excellent shape. I know of many other owners who are investing and upgrading such buildings.
        Great things about historic buildings is that they can take punishment and be repaired unlike many modern homes, as the leaky house drama revealed.
        And you don’t need deep pockets, it’s called rolling up your sleeves.

        • Elizabeth

          Prester John, in consultation with Hocken’s David Murray, adds to the history of the Barron Building on page 35 of today’s print and digital editions of the Otago Daily Times.

          We hear that the first cafe or restaurant in the building appears to have been the Pacific (opened circa 1928 or a little earlier), followed by the Brown Owl Cafe (1938) and the Hasty Tasty Cafe (1943) before the Dragon Cafe was established in 1958.

          The building was built by William Barron, “a member of the House of Representatives who lived in a large house at Kew called “The Willows”, which was demolished in the 1970s. Mr Barron was co-owner of Banks, Barron and Co, wine and spirit merchants”.

          The Barron building was damaged in a serious fire in 1887, the columnist says.

        • Elizabeth

          Thanks Richard!

          In 2007, Opus International Consultants Ltd produced a report for the Dunedin City Council, prepared by Anna Johnson, then Principal Researcher (Social Science), and reviewed by Jane Loten, Senior Planning Consultant / Legal Adviser.

          Richard very kindly supplied the copy this morning.

          Dunedin City Heritage Commercial Buildings Economic Reuse Review (2007)

          Anna Johnson has subsequently gained employment with Dunedin City Council, as manager of the City Development Team. I understand she is currently working for Council on a part-time basis.

        • Elizabeth

          See Facebook group:

          Dunedin Heritage Buildings – Stop Demolition by Neglect

  35. David M

    Re the fire – it depends on your definition of serious. The ODT in 1887 called it a “serious fire”. The original story is at–1887—1887–10–1

    Barron ended up sole owner, but the building was built for Barron, Grant & Co (at the time of tenders) / Banks, Barron & Co (at the time of completion). Barron himself may have been out of the colony at the time. And lest the architect (Hardy) get all the credit, the building contractor was James Gore.

    This research (most of it from 2009) wasn’t intended as an epitaph, so here’s still hoping. As many of the articles linked to this site have argued, it can make economic sense to save a building in a very poor state, as well as in an environmental / ecological sense, and as well as culturally and aesthetically enriching the community by preserving its history, and an object of beauty.

  36. peter

    I’m sick and tired of owners of buildings letting them go through neglect. I know of two other properties, one is an old shop left to rack and ruin in Caversham – forgotten the number – which the owner has been trying to sell off for ages. The other is the former Russell St Dairy which was greatly neglected till it was sold. Fortunately, it was tarted up, but objections I understand were raised within council for it to continue as an alternative business after the council hassled the old dairy owners. That’s a different story!
    The buildings in Rattray St have been long neglected by the Chinese community, it has to be said.

    {Moderated. -Eds}

  37. Many in Dunedin are sick and tired of the built environment of Dunedin being left to rot. It’s a bloody embarrassment full stop. This city is unique in New Zealand, quite possibly because of its lack of development and population, in that we have a wealth of historical buildings that are on the whole untouched by tacky development. Unfortunately, also due to that lack of population and development, these buildings have been neglected. The love, care and attention that they need hasn’t been forthcoming. This is a failure of our civic leaders, the business community and the community as a whole.

    It seems the council has failed to legislate to protect these buildings. This is a tragedy and if it’s not changed in light of the current debate (and goings on in Christchurch after the earthquake), that too will be a tragedy.

    The business community has been at fault too. Way too often we have seen underinvestment in the buildings that are at the heart of the infrastructure of this city. There are some very very good examples of where with some money, care and attention stunning old buildings have been given new leases of life in the 21st century. Thankfully Dunedin hasn’t succumbed to the tilt-slab concrete craze that overcame so many towns and cities in NZ. Sure we aren’t without out mistakes and cringe making architectural failings, but the stunning old building stock of Dunedin is a gift completely and utterly unique to Dunedin. The architectural heritage of Dunedin isn’t just the University Clock Tower, it’s not just the Railway Station, neither is it Churches. It is every bit the Burns & Co building in Ratray St. It’s every bit the stunning old industrial warehouses.

    However it is incredibly rich for the public to think they are without blame in this sad state of affairs. We’ve known about these buildings for a very long time. That is unless you don’t walk around the streets with your eyes open that is. I falsely tweeted that the area around Rattray St was a ghost town, when of course the term I was looking for was ghetto. Look what happened to the beautiful building on Jetty St after it was unfortunately ravaged by fire. Boarded up for years, thankfully it wasn’t demolished like its neighbour. The people of Dunedin are a wonderfully motivated lot when it suits them, but to allow the city to get to the state of disrepair (in places), and then start pointing the finger at everyone else is bloody rich. This is your city. I mean people got pathetically hot and bothered when the council introduced a new waste and recycling scheme – screaming and dragging into the 21st century, yet we allow the built visual environment to decay. Yes some people have fought brilliant fights to save heritage buildings etc, but they have let off business and council time and time again.

    All of this pathetic finger pointing is every bit embarrassing as the state of some of these buildings. Because we have all, through our inactions, been partly to blame.

    Having said that, through the likes of this site and other forums, we are also all part of the solution. The Community, the Council and Business. The unfortunate state of affairs at Burns & Co Building have finally ignited the debate that has been needed for a very long time. We have come a long way as a city over the last two decades, we are collectively more sophisticated in our ways and means of communicating with each other (Community, City & Business). At the Dunedin futures forum at the Town Hall, at best Lip Service was given to the Architectural Heritage of the city. Sure it was talked about, but on every list where it needed to be #1 or 2, it was wallowing down at 5, 7, or 10.

    We all need to step up to the plate as they say and make this unfortunate event a positive starting point for change. Seems we finally starting to really care and appreciate our Architectural heritage. Now let’s act upon this new found passion positively.

    These buildings are part of the ongoing gift to this city from our predecessors, and to allow this scale of neglect is to thumb the nose to these people who gave Dunedin such a wonderful start.

    However I fail to see how crass inappropriate racial slurs adds anything to this debate. I would appreciate in future such cheap stereotyping left out of one’s arguments.

    • Elizabeth

      I don’t think one building having its roof collapse is a reason to over-react to the ‘heritage condition’ of Dunedin City.

      I say this because the vast area of metropolitan ‘Heritage Dunedin’, for starters, is largely made up of residential buildings of which a high proportion are reasonably well maintained in private ownership and are set to endure for a good while yet – as indeed are Dunedin’s commercial and industrial buildings. Good stewardship for heritage is a process that is active and informed.

      I’ve mentioned reasonably often that particular strides have been made for historic heritage in the last eighteen months at Dunedin City Council, including in council’s work with property owners.

      Nearly every department of council has responsibilities in some way to historic heritage, whether to do with buildings, roads, structures, funding, planning, archives, archaeology, sport and recreation, museums, parking, the list goes on and is very extensive. More good work continues, right down to protocols for council contractors and subcontractors in approaching heritage fabric.

      Nothing’s perfect, and yes heritage is always a team game. It’s about social and cultural identity and the city’s economic sustainability, point of difference, richness, integrity and sense of place. Some re-engineering of the city’s heritage fabric is needed to sustain it, at scale.

      I’ll put a nudge in here for private property rights, as much as for the expectation that people act in accordance with statutes, policy and by-laws. Compulsory and voluntary methods of compliance have their place.

      Heritage management involves innovation and entrepreneurship, and finding workable alternative solutions. Very few buildings will stay as untouchable, unchangeable, ‘museum relics’ for future enjoyment.

      The council’s Resident Opinion Surveys find a high proportion of respondents want Dunedin’s heritage to be well managed and maintained. We can’t save all heritage property at risk. Business investors are a mixed bag, as are property investors and property developers.

      If more people involve themselves in writing submissions and appearing at hearings on resource consents and proposed plan changes to fend off inappropriate development that has adverse effects for heritage, the city becomes a better place.

      No-one needs to be a planning professional to make a submission or to present their views on proposals at hearing. Attend a few hearings to see what happens, they’re open to all comers. Sit in on a few formal meetings of the Dunedin City Council and the standing committees – watch the councillors and staff, and their processes.


      PS. If someone asked me, do we have a problem with a number of property owners not maintaining their buildings and not having sufficient proficiencies in targeting or selecting appropriate tenants and tenant mixes for a building or city area? … then one thing I would say is there appears to be a lack of business training, specialisation and leadership evident in the local property development market in determining and meeting New Zealand’s regional, national and international economic objectives – whether or not the recession lingers on. Where is the commitment to sustainability?

      Also, I’d be asking how many people have 100% mortgages they’re not able to service on how many properties, following the nebulous property boom? Some aren’t doing so well… meaning there’s opportunity for others with vision to step in.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Mon, 17 Jan 2011
        Staff remember the old days
        By Rebecca Fox
        Elaine Day, Marlene Arthur and Bev Jackson remember the old days working at Calder Mackay, a furniture store in Rattray St from the 1930s to 1980s, with other store workers at a reunion in South Dunedin on Saturday.
        Read more

  38. peter

    Sometimes just cosmetic repairs could be made to help improve heritage buildings. Here’s an example. At 362-366 George St, with Funk That and the Sampan Restaurant underneath, there is a beautiful building which could be improved. Above the verandah is a large, rectangular, very redundant box sign that may have once been a neon sign. It is very rough and covers most of the unusual arched windows. The one window, uncovered, is part broken and part opaque covered in cardboard/paper. The building is solid brick and Oamaru stone, I think. Surely it wouldn’t take too much money to remove the ugly signage, put fresh transparent glass in the windows, and to freshen up the window frames with a lick of paint. Perhaps even add a window box for some simple low maintenance flowers like geraniums. Not sure yet who owns the building, but it would be good if the council spoke to the owner. The Edinburgh Way is a treasure. This ugliness spoils things.

  39. James

    Peter — the box you refer to is, I think, a fridge, behind the bar of the defunct nightclub upstairs. It does puzzle me a bit. It’s an enormous space to go unused for so long. There have been occasional signs of happening with skips & the like out the back, but nothing so far.

  40. David M

    The building was once home to Johnson’s fish shop, a local institution for many decades. I agree it would look miles better without the ‘box’, although the stonework on the parapet concerns me more – it obviously needs attention. Do such improvements happen in Dunedin without the initiative coming from the owner? How have the various parapet and other stonework restorations in Oamaru been funded and at whose instigation? Can the DCC do more to help owners by identifying projects and offering assistance, rather than waiting for owners to come with a case? In fairness, I know there is pro-active behind the scenes encouragement from council staff, but they need to be able to offer more carrots. Great things have come out of the Heritage Fund but it is inadequate.

    An improvement I would love to see made is the restoration of the parapet, pediments etc. on the Hallenstein Building in the Octagon. This site is very visible and important to the city’s image. Although unspoilt in the middle storeys, the c.1960s truncation makes the once handsome building look squat and almost ugly. The railing at the top looks like it’s off a jungle gym. It would greatly enhance the Octagon if it was restored. You can see how it once looked at

    • Elizabeth

      In reply to Peter and David – yes, definitely an eyesore as is. Because the building is in the George St Heritage Precinct it is likely to qualify for Dunedin Heritage Fund assistance (comes in the form of a loan or grant) for restoration of the facade and any other aspects that are not routine maintenance – but that’s only if the owner wants to effect any work for which they will need to shell out some of their own funds as well. Hmmm, the owner. Check the DCC Rates information – I’m declining to name in this instance because I will talk to persons about it to see what’s possible and if the Dunedin Heritage Fund Committee has already approached building owners in the ‘New Edinburgh Way’ lately. A colleague has reviewed the Precinct in the last months for the District Plan and they will have noted similar concern.

      [The last time I went inside the nightclub when it was running was to shoot pool with my immediate apartment neighbours and the hospital doctors next door – it had been quite a night already and thus my memory of the interior was dimmer than the environment itself. Actually, it and the Robbie Burns present an excellent restoration and design challenge, thanks to Peter for bringing it up. Two weeks ago I photographed the back of the buildings, in their relationship to the back of the historic, listed Med School buildings – want to see some excellent exposed brick buildings at scale, have a look there.]

      Re the HB building, agree, but there are buildings in a worse state needing work before that one and since it’s only a Townscape Precinct in the Octagon rather than a Heritage Precinct, we begin to see the strangeness of the District Plan and how to prioritise projects accordingly if private funding and or public assistance isn’t available or possible for the many deserving cases.

      Note DCC wants to cut its usual annual contribution of $40,000 to the Dunedin Heritage Fund (a separate legal entity) for the 2011/12 year. Sydney Pious Brown should be marched to the stocks under Mr Burns in the Octagon.

  41. peter

    Yes, David,the Oamaru stone parapet is very dodgy. Shades of Rattray St? You can barely see what is left of the inscriptions on the stone. I can see there is basically the word ‘established’, a date ( 1894?) and John….. probably Johnsons which you refer to as a previous long term owner/tenant.
    Disturbing to hear, Elizabeth, that the DCC wants to cut its heritage fund for 2011/12. This should be a handy benchmark to remember, come the next election, as to those councillors who are really committed to our heritage. Everyone is for heritage at election time of course. How’s that for cynicism!

    • Elizabeth

      Shoring up begins on the Barron building today.

      ### ODT Online Tue, 18 Jan 2011
      Steel used to shore up old building
      Safety work continues on a partially collapsed building in Rattray St, central Dunedin.
      Read more

  42. David M

    The Robbie Burns had a highly ornate 1870s facade, stripped right back in the mid-20th century, with quasi-Victorian elements added later (1990s?). I agree there are buildings in a worse state than the HB building, although we’re assuming its improvement would be at the expense of something more deserving. The precinct probably needs a relook as all of the facades on that side of Princes Street between Moray Place and the Octagon (just to begin with) were all built between 1895 and 1916, and all are particularly fine. Dunedin is full of Victorian buildings that look frumpy and badly-proportioned because essential elements are missing. It’s one of the reasons particular examples are under-appreciated. Buildings on the two eastern corners of George and St Andrews Street are good examples, although they would probably also fall into the “well maintained” catagory.

    But yes, absolutely, priorities. Is it worth here trying to identify some of the buildings which might be in the worst, “probably fewer than 10”, category referred to by Stephen MacKnight?

    • Elizabeth

      David – yes, all for identifying the ten or so buildings at risk at this site.

      Let’s see where this goes too, knew it was pending:

      ### ODT Online Tue, 18 Jan 2011
      Move to increase building protection
      By Debbie Porteous
      The Dunedin City Council is reviewing its policy on dangerous, insanitary and earthquake-prone buildings, with a view to increased protection of the city’s assets. The council’s planning and environment committee approved a timeline for the review at its final meeting last year.
      Read more



      @NZPlanning Mayor pledges to strengthen historic building protection: Auckland mayor Len Brown says he is determined to stre…

  43. Richard

    Given the work they did some years ago on the former European Hotel facades at the corner of George and Bath and some other buildings in NE Way, I would think that the owner of the Robbie Burns property (if still one and the same) would be more than open to any realistic approaches. I also understand they also own the building on the northeast corner of St Andrew and George Sts referred to by David M – the one with the Jay Jay shop.

    While in that vicinity, worth noting that the DCC via the Property Unit is a 50% owner of the Penrose Building. Took up its stake some 10 years (?) or more ago when the building’s future was very much up “in the air”. Now that it has lift access to the first floor and some integration with ‘Wall Street’, it is looking to full re-use/occupation.

    • Elizabeth

      News to hand for Barron building, 175 Rattray St (Dragon Cafe):

      There was a visit to “…the first and second floor interiors of the Barron and Co building yesterday. The [architect] Owen MacFie* interiors are still in existence and although in some places in poor condition are for the most part unaltered and therefore pretty special”.


      For those interested in MacFie’s work, see Friends of the Hocken Collections, Bulletin Number 60: March 2010 – Business Series 5: Architects and architecture.

      “Filed under MS-1161 are 21 boxes of architectural plans and papers from Owen Ernest MacFie, who graduated as an architect in 1912 and practised in Dunedin with a former class-mate as MacFie & Hood – the principal being Francis Graham Hood. He later worked with A.J. Park & Son, Patent Agents, as the company’s Dunedin representative from 1921–33. The archive comprises nearly 600 plans of various buildings and private residences, including entries for various architectural competitions, the business files of MacFie & Hood, involvements with various local bodies in Otago and professional associations such as the Otago Branch of the N.Z. Institute of Architects and personal papers. Another architect associated with Owen MacFie was C. Gardner Dunning. Dunning and his father, William Henry Dunning, came to Dunedin in 1908 to supervise the construction of the N.Z. Express Company building (now Consultancy House). He worked from the same office as the builder, C.F. McDonald. On the death of his father in 1933, C. Gardner Dunning shared his business interests with Owen MacFie during the 1950s before the latter’s death in 1960. Dunning died two years later. The modest archive (MS-2928) contains five sets of plans of Dunedin homes and buildings, as well as William Dunning’s competition design for the Dunedin Town Hall.” Link

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Wed, 19 Jan 2011
        Pieces of building saved for possible replication
        By Debbie Porteous
        Original pieces from one of Dunedin’s oldest commercial buildings are being saved in the hope one day replicas can be made and the building’s facade rebuilt.

        The pieces can be viewed in the window of the old Furniture Court building, across the road from the partially collapsed building.

        Read more

      • Elizabeth

        A nice wee photo of the Barron building having its facade propped up with steel framing in ODT print and digital editions this morning (page 4). Rather ‘ironic’.

        The bad news:
        An application for building demolition is anticipated. Same for the N & ES Paterson building next door, since its roof was damaged when the Barron building’s roof collapsed.

        The question remains, will the facade(s) be saved if all else goes.

  44. David M

    The words fading from that parapet are ‘Johnsons / 1884 / Established’. According to the Cyclopedia of Otago and Southland (1999): ‘The original fish shop, established in 1884 and situated in a block of four in George Street, was burned down in April 1910. The architect Edmund Anscombe designed a new building, consisting of two shops, which was constructed the same year and was considered a most imposing structure in its time…in 1925 it was considered the first fresh-fish shop in the country to install an ammonia plant freezer’. There is a good photo of the building (boxless) on p.172 of the book. The fish shop closed in 1994.

  45. David M

    Here are a few candidates for the dodgy list: former Hanover Street Baptist Church / Monkey Bar (1910s); former Modern Upholstery building in Rattray Street; Cumberland Space Station / Donald Reid store (1880s); Gresham Hotel (1880s); Nood / Everybody’s Theatre (1880s and 1910s); King Edward Court (1910s); Reed / Education Board building in Jetty and Crawford Streets (1890s); old Woodstock Furniture building in Jetty Street; Farley’s buildings / Disk Den etc. in Princes Street (1860s – plain but with the incredibly rich history of Farley’s Hall); Dunning’s buildings / former Central Hotel, Princes Street (1870s); St Dominic’s Priory (1870s); Go Kart / Loan & Merc building (1870s and 1880s); Forbury Park grandstand (maybe they’d keep it with some assistance?). Some of these might just be scruffy but it would be good to know more about their condition. Some others are probably worse than they look.

    • Elizabeth

      David, what a provocative and useful list in the making. By all means send it to Glen Hazelton at DCC and Owen Graham at NZHPT – or have them visit the link so to catch other heritage pronouncements here of late.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Tue, 10 Mar 2015
      Priory cleaned, repaired to attract buyer
      By David Loughrey
      Work has begun tidying and repairing the long-neglected former Dominican Priory in Dunedin, as the Catholic Church makes another attempt to sell the historic building. Scaffolding and a skip have arrived outside the priory for what Catholic Diocese of Dunedin general manager Gerald Scanlan said was “a bit of a clean-up”. The 138-year-old building has been for sale for more than 10 years. It is said to be the largest unreinforced concrete building in the southern hemisphere, and was designed by Francis Petre, who also designed St Joseph’s Cathedral next door and Cargill’s Castle in St Clair.
      Read more

      St Dominic’s Priory (Former) – 31 Smith Street and Tennyson Street, Dunedin
      █ Heritage New Zealand – Category 1 historic place | List No: 372

  46. peter

    Don’t you just love the lovely little portico that now adorns the frontage of the recently demolished buildings in lower High St? Maybe they can bowl the Rattray St buildings and Dunedin has its own semi circular Stonehenge.

  47. Farking outrage. NO! Don’t just save the facade to create another of those god damned awful car parking facades.

    Who the bloody hell can I open a can of whop ass on this one. As said in previous comments, Council, Business & Public all bloody culpable, so where to start.

    Bloody disgrace. This wasn’t even an earthquake, this was neglect. Bullshit about being 130+ year old building. You don’t sit in London waiting for 800 year old buildings to crumble around you from neglect.

    Bloody disgrace

  48. Anonymous

    If there is a conspiracy, then the cracks currently showing on the frontage of the Crown Hotel will develop into “significant problems” and lead to demolition along with Barron. And that leaves Scenic Circle plus one other (concrete) building on that block.

  49. David M

    Mention of Penrose’s brings back memories of a digger going through over 90 per cent of the mosaic tile flooring, and the ground floor windows being rearranged in their present, aesthetically unfortunate order.

    • Elizabeth

      David, I share your view of Penroses now and at the time – a gruesome ghastly mess that was NOT best practice building conservation in any way. Thanks DCC (of old) and Tony Clear. Saying that, we’re lucky to have retained as much as we have of the original fabric, there was very little protection on it.

      • Elizabeth

        How are we gonna save Barron building, people? Ideas? I’m sick of Disney facades in Dunedin’s Central Activity Zone.

        I also wondered about the ‘redeveloping’ interior of the Andrea Bianni shop today (corner George St and Albion Lane), the builders are putting in a new floor and have stripped the old one out exposing the earth – it seems to me that’s an old site and has potential archaeological implications depending on how many times the ground has been disturbed over the years under the premises. Placed a call with the NZHPT Regional Archaeologist, as a check. Will follow up again tomorrow – may be nothing in it but best be safe.



        General information for What if? visitors:
        If you suspect an archaeological site (pre-1900) is being disturbed you can call this number day or night for advice:

        Dr Matt Schmidt, NZHPT Otago Southland Regional Archaeologist – Mobile: 027 240 8715
        DDI: (03) 477 9850

        If Matt is unavailable, please call Dr Rick McGovern Wilson, NZHPT Chief Archaeologist (Antrim House, Wellington) – Mobile: 021 250 1881
        DDI: (04) 470 8055

  50. David M

    The Barron building would have to be prominent in any top 100 list of buildings (demolished or standing) erected in Dunedin in the 19th century. Its owner needs to do the right thing and make amends for his incompetence. The council needs to take some responsibility for the collapse, and it needs to stick its hand up to make big contributions towards saving the building. Unfortunately the proposed cuts to the heritage fund suggest that philistinism is entrenched.

    A casual acceptance of ‘win some lose some’ is not good enough – our heritage stock is eroding. The amount of key heritage lost in the past two years is disturbing, and if you look at what we had in 1965, you can see we have lost many of the best examples of commercial architecture still presenting its nineteenth-century appearance to the street. Crawford Street is a disaster. Sensible people look after their valuable assets. I refuse to submit to a culture of mediocrity.

  51. Phil Cole


    How do we save the Barron Building?

    First the Bad News – As you probably realise, the ‘Barron Building’ isn’t the first and will not be the last building of heritage value to disappear from Dunedin. Whilst we have the current status quo of:

    A) (some) private investors / individuals who are happy to ‘let nature take its course’ on their old properties due to a number of personal reasons and no current regulations to force them otherwise, and

    B) Councils – Regional and Local – have no monies to contribute or are prepared to devote staff time to look at the matter,

    Then I think we should prepare ourselves for more ‘heritage’ building collapses around the city.

    There is nothing that can be done under the present set-up. The NZHPT are pretty hamstrung by what they can achieve, despite their best intentions. I guess it will require government legislation to change this, but by the time this becomes law, most of the heritage buildings will be in a state of disrepair!

    As well as this, there are probably a majority of people who don’t even look above eye level when walking along the main streets – just like the majority of drivers who look no further than the edge of their car front when driving – and therefore don’t care about buildings.

    The Good News – well, there are a small number of private investors / developers who do a great job in restoring and bringing life back to some of the older buildings around Dunedin – you only have to look at the great work done on the Bing Harris building opposite Southern Cross and the adjacent buildings along Princes Street (Nectar Café).

    Could some form of body be formed that can bring together these people with a passionate interest in protecting these old buildings around Dunedin to further the cause of their protection? Not a council-backed or formed body – that will get you nowhere, slowly – but an independent body of people singing from the same songbook, promoting the value of retaining these buildings and using every opportunity to further the cause. Perhaps some kind of ‘Trust’ could be set up to provide funds for purchasing these properties?

    One cannot but help to go back to the famous quote (I think it was by Edmund Burke) and amending it slightly…”The only thing necessary for the destruction of heritage buildings around Dunedin is for the people to do nothing.”

    As a personal matter, if the Barron Building has to come down, and the Paterson Building as well as the Crown Hotel (because of the effects of the Barron Building) – the DCC should grab the bull by the horns and take the opportunity to redevelop this ‘Chinese Quarter’ in a way that can revitalise this area – they have talked about it for years!

    As you know, the proposed Cable Car is due to start / end outside the Southern Cross Hotel – what a great opportunity to incorporate a Cable Car / transport museum in this area, in a ‘new’ building that reflects not only the architectural heritage of the history of the area – from ‘The Broadway’ (the first glass-covered mall in Dunedin) to the cable cars of the Mornington and Roslyn routes that started and ended in this area – but can bring much needed revitalisation to the area as well. Surely something better than ‘Disney facades’ (I like that term, Elizabeth, even though I love Disneyworld!) can be incorporated in this area. I’ll have to get my thinking cap on!

    But…for all that we wish for, logic will dictate that The ‘Chinese Quarter’ will become ‘Disneyland Dunedin’ with its wonderful facades and a massive car park…

    At the end of the day it is up to us…do we pontificate, do we have enough free time to do something about it…or do we indeed ‘do nothing’?

    • Elizabeth

      Phil C – in general, as discussed this morning (at Nectar Cafe !!!):

      Recommendations to DCC…
      1. Enforce New Zealand Building Act in regard to weathertightness
      2. Step-up Building Warrant of Fitness requirements
      3. Revise DIEPB levels of compliance and tighten compulsory timelines for that compliance (DIEPB is currently pending review)

      and so on.

    • Elizabeth

      ###ODT Online Tue, 25 Jan 2011
      Archivist wants to see building saved
      By Debbie Porteous
      A Dunedin archivist is to present a petition to the Dunedin City Council to ask it to do all it can to ensure the retention and preservation of the partially collapsed Barron’s Building in Rattray St. Dr David Murray, who nominated the former commercial building for registration with the Historic Places Trust in 2009, said he started the petition on Saturday because he felt he needed to be proactive, while the fate of the building was still undecided.
      Read more

  52. James

    This is a slightly random aside, but some time ago I was reading about how some cities charge businesses for providing parking spaces. Among its many implications, this really devalues the economic case for turning buildings and land into parking spaces, if each space ends up costing $2000 per year. It strikes me that Dunedin could go a step further, and charge a one-off conversion fee, to really discourage change. It might also provide a good guide for the potential redevelopment of Carisbrook and the Iron Rolling Mill site in Green Island.

  53. David M

    Echoing Paul’s comments, is now the time for a new heritage advocacy group to be set up? Something to fill the gap the HPT branch committees are leaving, and to provide far more vigorous advocacy than those groups ever offered? This could complement the behind the scenes stuff.

    Of course Disneyland architecture would go with the Mickey Mouse property owners ;)

  54. Richard

    Regarding the Penrose building (that is its name. check the stained glass windows), I am not certain at which point DCC Property became a 50% shareholder (i.e. before or after the initial ground floor changes) but I do recall that the original flooring was “pretty rotten” and had to be replaced (it was mainly timber?) and the windows also needed to be totally reconstructed/strengthened as their original ‘settings’ or frames were unsafe. They would bend if anyone leant against them!

    That said, I agree with you Elizabeth. The best interior ‘save’ has to be the staircase (minus the horrible ‘modern’ addition that had been added in the former shop) and which now gives access from St Andrew Street to the second floor. And the integration of lift access etc from the St. A entrance is the key to achieving full utilisation of the building and hopefully giving an economic return on the investment.

    In the end, those two things are crucial to ensuring a viable future for commercial buildings of this kind.

    • Elizabeth

      I’m pretty sure Tony Clear was key to the whole ‘refurb’…
      However, a little misunderstanding perhaps (could be the English) of what building conservation practices are for adaptive reuse.

      More care and craftsmanship in three dimensions was required for the building, and this DOES enhance investment return. The whole project under the verandah line looks cheap and nasty, compared to the intention and detailing of the original building plans, which of course ‘as built’ underwent further changes in relation to the handling of display windows and shop entrances, regrettably. People might say what is there now looks AOK, but heritage values are clearly diminished – this is part of the “Disney” effect I refer to from time to time… a common ailment in heritage precincts where developers are given too much leash.

      Yes the windows were ‘unsafe’, and as everyone who knew the old store windows will realise, their very fine vertical supports for the glazing panels could not take safety glass – the contemporary reorganisation of the windows and entries under the verandah to effect the new retail tenancies was handled less than admirably in a detail design sense (which is not to decry how the safety glass is now supported in frame).

  55. Richard

    Hi Elizabeth

    Well, I agree in general with your points but, with due respect, I do understand perhaps more than you think I do about adaptive building re-use. And that includes on-site experience outside of – and inside – council! That includes how (what is now called) the Clarion Building in The Exchange came to be ‘saved’ from demolition along with the former main section of Brown Ewing.

    Since my earlier post, I have spoken with June who worked in the Penrose building for eight years or so. From what she has said, the floors were all lino covered over timber and she recalls, as I do, the section in the former menswear department (which is where the travel company is now) being so rotten that it had to be taken up and replaced by concrete.

    So, the tiling [referred to] would be that in the original main shop entrance that was recessed. Much like the entrance to the former Dreaver store which occupied the buildigs in the centre of the block south of St Andrew St. I have not checked, but last time I looked at the original entrance to ‘Dreavers’ (now subdivided into several shops) the name was still there in the tiling – I think, at the entrance to the Hydro shop. And what’s more, not that I am old enough to remember the shop, but I did know the Dreaver sisters. But that was long after the shop closed.

    And while I haven’t looked at the Andrea Biani shop – which I better remember as Hendry’s Menswear – I would think that providing there is no excavation taking place, an archaeological permit from NZHPT would not be required?

    • Elizabeth

      Not to be quibbled with – I raised an archaeological query.
      Any attempt (deliberate or accidental) to modify, damage or destroy a pre-1900 site is a matter for the experts to determine.

      The public may raise any concerns in this regard in good faith to NZHPT, the statutory authority for archaeological sites.

      Remember DCC’s Wall Street project? Jim Harland ended up with criminal convictions against his name as a result of the actions of others in relation to the development site, a sorry story. No matter the building scale, the law applies.

      Historic floor tiling can be retained, as shown by the fact ‘some’ has but more could have been by “careful” means.

      [Does anyone think Crown Clothing or Farmers are great examples of adaptive reuse / facadism. Gosh I wonder who the people were that told Council/Councillors the Clarion and Bing Harris buildings are great examples of adaptive reuse. Let me start a list of their names . . . ]

      The irony is seering.

  56. David M

    When did Dreaver’s close? 1950s? I know that Robson and Dreaver opened a tailor’s business in the Octagon in 1864, and the building in George street was built for Dreavers in 1879 (the wonderful tiling coming later).

  57. Richard

    I cannot personally recall Dreavers at all. My guess is they probably closed sometime in the 1940s. My aunt might know, she is 90 and has a pretty good memory if it’s jogged so I will ask her next time I see her. When I came back to Dunedin in the mid-50s, I think Martin’s Furnishers operated from that location.

  58. Elizabeth

    Richard, when you have composed yourself…

    Your comment has gone to moderation.

    {The comment has been moderated and returned to the What if? authors for posting. -Eds}

    The comment now reads:

    Submitted on 2011/01/26 at 10:26 pm

    How about this ‘prototype’ for adaptive reuse’?

    As for what happened on the ‘Wall Street’ site, it was the DCC that was prosecuted not Jim Harland personally. Criminal? I would think ‘Civil’, whatever both parties had agreed the case to be presented to the court. {NZHPT took a successful criminal prosecution against the Council, as it is empowered to do by statute. -Eds}

    And the cost of saving the ‘sticks’ {from the Corduroy Walk -Eds}. Last thing I knew, maybe $500,000 and still no guarantee they will ‘pickle’. Justified expenditure or not given the more practical options that were available?

    I did not venture the opinion that the Clarion/Bing buildings are great examples of adaptive reuse. {Elizabeth did not say or imply that with her comments. -Eds}

    I did say that I knew how the Clarion Building came to be saved and that was long before I went on to Council. Long before. If that had not happened, the building would not be there now for adaptive re-use or anything else. I do think the Macknight’s have done pretty well and I look forward to a successful outcome for them – and the city – with their current project on the former USS/National Mortgage building.

    Same for the Bing Harris building.
    {The Clarion Building and the Bing Harris Building have been linked internally as a result of the recent redevelopment work. -Eds} Alex De Boer was, I think, the first owner after BH vacated and he discussed with me his plans (dreams?) for the building several years before I was elected to council. They were quite ‘grand’ but the project obviously got beyond him.

    The irony might be ‘seering’, sadly all I read is ‘sneering’.

  59. Richard

    Good Morning. I am quite composed, thank you. With respect, I think you should sometimes take your own advice.

  60. ro

    Elizabeth: I think you must encompass a great deal in your idea of what is a great example of the retention of facades & adaptation when you so trenchantly criticise, by implication, Farmers & Crown Clothing, the Clarion & Bing Harris buildings.

    May I put my hand up for saying that by retaining the entire street facades and having no taller-than-themselves, modernism-finished, buildings inserted behind their facades, they meet all my own requirements for the acceptable adaptation of these buildings? Or is meeting the requirement not good enough? ;-)

    • Elizabeth

      Ro – I’m on the record for saying Clarion and Bing Harris buildings are good and great examples of adaptive reuse – have said it at this website on more than one occasion, and several times in resource consent hearings not restricted to one property application; as well as in historic heritage discussion meetings, built environment leadership group meetings, and in public workshops at DCC and elsewhere. They’re probably the best example we have in Dunedin right now.

  61. ro

    I should add that to be acceptable to me, the retained facade must be attached to and supported by a 3-d structure, of the same height and width as the original.

  62. Stu

    Adding the refurbishment of No 8 Stafford St to the list of well-executed refurbishments.

  63. ro

    Is no 8 Ross & Glendinning?

    {Yes it is, now owned by Te Kawa Property Ltd. 8 Stafford Street is a three storeyed Victorian brick warehouse conversion into office space, with basement (also office space) and new penthouse accommodation. -Eds}

  64. Richard

    Elizabeth, I took the same meaning as RO did in regard to your reference to the Crown Clothing/Westpac, Bing Harris buildings. I was pretty certain that is/was not what you had previously said and thus I was more than a little surprised but did not have the time to check back. So, I am pleased that is clarified and my recall did not let me down!

    By the by, if you have not been reading ‘Property Press’, the penthouse pad ( the entire top floor) at No.8 Stafford is currently for sale.

  65. ro

    No 8 is splendid! Only this morning was I admiring it.

  66. Richard

    In Comment-15390 above, Elizabeth states: “Remember DCC’s Wall Street project? Jim Harland ended up with criminal convictions against his name as a result of the actions of others in relation to the development site, a sorry story.”

    I do not know what Elizabeth’s reason for making this statement were and I subsequently queried it – rather gently too – suggesting that it was not a criminal case but almost certainly a civil action. That post has been “removed for moderation”.

    I have today checked what the situation was. So, for the record.

    The DCC did have an archaeological authority for the Wall Street site. The prosecution related to the DCC failing to comply with the conditions of the authority. In summary, that related to some work being done onsite without an archaeologist being present.

    The DCC pleaded guilty and a financial penalty was imposed by the court. Which accords with what I knew of the case.

    More importantly, Jim Harland was not personally convicted of anything.

    Now let’s get back to the ‘thread’ (the issue) what was an interesting discussion.

    • Elizabeth

      Richard, I think we had this disagreement once before.

    • Elizabeth

      ODT (6/8/08) Prosecution DCC tests partnership
      Prosecuting counsel Aleyna Hall, representing the trust, said on two separate occasions contractors breached conditions by digging trenches into 19th-century layers, resulting in significant damage to the site. The second incident happened after the council had been made aware of the first breach.

      Judge Paul Kellar said the council had breached five conditions of the authority and as a result of trenches being dug, a potentially significant archaeological site and removed material – including artefacts from the 1860s – had been damaged.


      Complying with an Archaeological Authority [NZHPT brochure]
      Now you’ve got your authority – what next?
      You have received an archaeological authority from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) because you are planning work that may affect an archaeological site. The NZHPT wants to see the best outcome for the archaeological sites involved and to help ensure that your project runs smoothly. Answers to commonly asked questions regarding compliance with the authority are provided here. If you have other questions, please call the Regional Archaeologist in the NZHPT office nearest you.

      Why comply?
      Archaeological sites are an irreplaceable part of our heritage and, although our history is short, it is rich, varied and unique, and belongs to all New Zealanders. What we discover from archaeological sites helps us to better understand our past and to learn from it. By complying with your authority conditions you help to add to our knowledge, and help us to preserve our heritage for the future.

      The NZHPT takes compliance seriously and the Historic Places Act 1993 (HPA) has strong provisions for non-compliance with authority conditions. Under s100 of the HPA, it is a criminal offence to breach the conditions of an authority, and you could be penalised with a fine of up to $40,000.

      {Our bolding. -Eds}

  67. Richard

    Not that I recall.

  68. Richard

    Breaking News:

    An appeal to stop the demolition of historic St Heliers cottages has been denied by the Environment Court. The case for an enforcement order stopping developer Anacona Properties destroying six houses from 8-16 and 20 Turua St was put to the court yesterday. In a reserved decision issued today, Judge Laurie Newhook said there was not enough evidence six houses on Turua St had heritage or historic value. Read more at NZ Herald.

    • Elizabeth

      ### Published: 5:36AM Thursday January 27, 2011 [updated 16:24]
      Battle to save St Heliers houses lost
      Source: ONE News/NZPA
      The fate of three Spanish mission-style houses in the seaside Auckland suburb of St Heliers has been decided, with the Environment Court ruling in favour of the developers. The decision follows a long-running battle by residents to save them.
      Read more


      ### Thu, 27 Jan 2011 3:49p.m.
      Turua buildings’ supporters lose heritage case
      Source: NZPA
      Protestors from the Auckland seaside suburb of St Heliers have lost their bid to save three art deco houses from demolition for commercial development.
      Read more

  69. ro

    I take it, Richard, that you consulted the ODT on-line in order to exonerate Jim Harland? Or did you consult the court records?

  70. Richard

    Hi Ro. Neither. JH was not charged with anything so there was nothing to exonerate him from.

  71. Richard

    I am reminded by this discussion that the first heritage building effectively saved from demolition and replacement is the former ANZ Bank opposite the CPO and the Mercure (formerly Wains Hotel).

    It was ‘my bank’ in those days (the 1960s into the early 70s) and I vividly remember the campaign launched by Shona Macfarlane (maybe supported by Lois Galer) to persuade ANZ to change their minds. It was probably done under ‘the umbrella’ of the Dunedin Civic Art Group, whatever it was certainly one that that led to success. The restoration of the Municipal Chambers in 1988-89 was almost an ‘action reply’ – in some respects anyway!

    The Princes Street and Liverpool Street facades are original but the banking chamber inside was replaced, and a multi-level building was built at the rear to house the administration etc. The uses of the two have now, of course, been separated and I assume ‘firewalled’ etc.

    The apparent second floor windows that face Princes Street and the now sealed entrance way to the floor on the right led in my days to the law offices of JSD More. The second floor was removed in the rebuilding of the interior.

  72. David M

    Thanks for the interesting details on ANZ Richard. Did they demolish Lawson’s 1870s South British Insurance building to build the multi-storey section in Liverpool St?

  73. Richard

    Well that really jogs the memory. I have this ‘mind picture’ of the ‘wee’ SB building and its manager back then – he was a friend of my Dad’s – and going into his office on several occasions. I cannot be 100% certain it was in Liverpool Street but that is what the pix is showing and I cannot think of where else it was.

  74. Richard

    Elizabeth: are you now going to put my post 13594 back up now? What is covered in regard to Wall Street is confirmed by the ODT Report you have now posted a link to. (End of story, I hope).

    More importantly was my reference (and link) to the adaptive use of a Brooklyn NY warehouse that I thought might interest here.

    Happy to post it again and cut the rest, if you wish.

  75. ro

    Richard, the reason I asked you your source of the Wall St court case, is that I was under the impression that not only was the offence a criminal offence, as Elizabeth’s quote shows, but that also the defendant was, or so I believe, Jim Harland, just as Elizabeth said. I think he was probably named as the defendant on grounds such as the prosecution requiring a person rather than a corporation to respond, but it would mean, if this belief is correct, that Mr Harland was convicted of a criminal offence. A way that it might not be, is that even though Mr Harland was cited as the defendant, the conviction was entered under the name of the City Council somehow. This may be possible, and is why I was hoping that when you contradicted Elizabeth on these points you did so having read the court transcripts or attended the trial.

  76. Richard

    Ro: your belief and understanding is not correct. It was a civil matter. For all sakes, best not to continue down the line you and Elizabeth have gone, nor does it contribute to the discussion.

    • Elizabeth

      Richard, Ro – I’ll seek to sight the judgement next week.
      The Historic Places Act 1993 is a statute that contains criminal offences, see sections 98 to 104 which provide for convictions and fines varying from a maximum of $2,500, to $100,000. The statute may be prosecuted against corporations or their office holders.

      If anyone else wants to check, they most certainly can.

  77. ro

    Yes, let’s get the facts. Until then.

    • Elizabeth

      This thread, ‘Demo by neglect? Save the facade?’ came up – as a query – because of the immediate threat to the Dragon Cafe / Barron’s Building in Rattray Street after the structure’s roof and parapets collapsed.

      How often is a pre-1900 building or structure allowed to become derelict? In this condition, what is the status of the building at law?

      By extention, what is the legal status of a (pre-1900) building if it has to be demolished following partial collapse; if it is to be stabilised as a ruin; or if a wall, facade, roof section, or a combination of these components, and a bluestone basement, for example, is to be retained and redeveloped for contemporary use?

      Where does the New Zealand insurance industry sit with these processes and legalities?

      Lots to discuss, thinking about how we prevent further building losses and associated losses of fabric that cumulatively erode Dunedin’s distinctive heritage architecture and sense of place.

      What is responsible stewardship of our historic heritage and cultural identity as an economic resource?

      Taking the facade-only-for-retention approach to townscape, and building concrete tombs (tiltslab, prestressed concrete, etc – done badly) behind a now one-dimensional veneer of ‘the past’ is a slight to heritage values, conservation practice, sustainable environment as well as to contemporary architecture, design and engineering.

      The slippery impoverishing slope to Dunedin’s abomination and ruin of another kind.

  78. Richard

    Your call. Elizabeth. Whatever “the facts”, you and Ro cannot go on claiming that a person is carrying a ‘criminal conviction’ when that it is quite untrue. Such claims repeated ad nauseum have consequences. What are you trying to prove?

  79. Phil

    Is it possible (me as an untrained idiot) that we may be talking about a “civil conviction”, rather than a “criminal conviction” ? If we’re splitting hairs over the judgement terminology. I always interpreted a Criminal Conviction to be a conviction which carries the possibility of imprisonment, whereas a Civil Conviction is for a conviction where the maximum permitted penalty is a fine. I think there’s also a difference with one asking for reasonable doubt while the other calls for sufficient evidence. The Crimes Act has no limitation on punishment (excluding the guillotine) whereas the Summary Proceedings Act is limited to financial penalties. Maybe that makes a difference to the one in which one expresses a “conviction” in the public arena. If such a judgement was passed.

  80. peter

    Those aware citizens of Dunedin have long ago made their own judgement of the personality and role of Jim Harland during his tenure – irrespective of the court case referred to here. He was partly responsible for, along with errant A Team councillors, the sorry financial state we are facing here in Dunedin, as witnessed by the latest panic moves to shore up the economic viability of the city. To have Syd Brown, appointed by Dave Cull, lead the charge is humorous and, maybe, fit. Except, strangely, none of them want to confront the stadium debacle which looks set to haunt us for a long time to come.

  81. Anonymous

    Was at a meeting last week where Athol Stephens was “sitting in for Jim while he’s away. In fact he won’t be back at all…” So that transition has been made…

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