Letter: why list an historic building and then tear it down?

As a committee member of Wauchope District Historical Society I have been following with interest the discussions regarding the demolition/relocation of the heritage listed Block 6 at Wauchope Public School. 

Patrick Daly, Project Manager of APP for the Dept of Education expresses serious reservations about the logistics of moving the building, citing issues of asbestos, chimneys collapsing, and the structural integrity of the building.

Any asbestos in the building will need to be professionally removed and disposed of, whether the building is bulldozed or relocated.  This is a cost that cannot be avoided whatever the decision.

Chimneys can be dismantled and rebuilt, and it seems that a building that has accommodated thousands of children over the past 100 years is likely to be able to cope with removal to a local site.

And what exactly is the point of listing buildings as historically significant when they can be torn down without a second thought for what that truly means?

In a recent episode of Grand Designs NZ (Series 3 ep 4) a young couple, against all odds relocated a historically significant 2 storey Queen Anne style weatherboard house destined for demolition in Christchurch when the earthquake destroyed its foundations, to Gibbston near Queenstown on the west coast. 

Unsympathetic 1960s additions were removed from the 125 year old house and the innovative young owner devised a way to ‘flat pack’ the second storey. 

Despite a number of unforeseen events including a fierce storm and snow and ice, the house removal specialists successfully negotiated the 450km journey, including  a gorge where there was a tolerance of 150ml on each side of the building and delivered it to its new site. 

At that stage, the whole job had cost less than $100,000.   The old house withstood all the stresses and strains of the journey.  Beautifully restored by the young owners it was testament to ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.

Unfortunately I suspect there is, in the case of the Wauchope’s school building – a much less daunting project -  little in the way of ‘will’, and a myopic vision of Wauchope’s future growth. 

What a shame, when in the next decade or so the school can no longer cope with the town’s school population and  the Department’s  hand is forced to build a second public school, that for the sake of a few years and some creative planning,  this significant piece of Wauchope’s history will  exist as just another photograph.

Surely this historic building, which has served the families of Wauchope for 100 years and is  representative of the very name on which this town hangs its hat – Timbertown – deserves better than demolition. 

If it is no longer suitable for the purpose for which it was built, as is the opinion of those in favour of the new building, then taking it back to its original state on a new site would allow it to live on as a useful public building that the town can be proud of.

Mary Wagg, Wauchope

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