Thursday, May 26, 2011

Greytown Heritage Trust

I live in New Zealand’s first planned inland town.  In New Zealand being first is just a matter of using enough adjectives.  The town was first surveyed by the Small Farms Association in 1853.  It consisted of 120 one acre sections, 60 on each side of Main Street.  The original concept was for each purchaser to have a town section of 1 acre and a 40 acre farm block nearby.

In March 1854 the first six settlers arrived on foot from Wellington over the Rimutaka mountain range.  They had with them 4 bullocks carrying all their possessions.  They got cracking building shelters and small cottages.  Within five years there were more substantial buildings, shops, hotels and larger houses.

The railway arrived in the 1870’s.  Frequent river flooding meant that the railway line didn’t pass through Greytown.  The railway line passed instead through Woodside where the river was more manageable and less prone to flooding.  Woodside is about 5 km from Greytown.  There was a separate railway line from Woodside station into Greytown.

The lack of direct railway access meant that Greytown was no longer the pre-eminent town in the region.  Very little new construction went on from 1920 to 1970, while the other towns nearby developed and modernised. This meant that Greytown’s original colonial buildings and established trees were left largely untouched.

The 1990s saw a rebirth of Greytown and appreciation of its charms.  Old buildings have been, with some exceptions, sensitively upgraded and put to new purposes.  Main Street now houses trendy cafes, boutiques, art galleries and antique shops.

The 2006 census records the population of the town as 2,001.  This represents an increase of 3 people since the 2001 census.  My wife and I have three children born in 2003, 2004 and 2006.  So that makes us directly responsible for the population increase.  We’ve done our bit.  It’s now up to others to increase the town population.

I am currently chair of the Greytown Heritage Trust.  We are a charitable trust established with the simple aim of working with developers and local authorities to maintain Greytown’s colonial charm.  It’s a bit of a balancing act.  We don’t want to see a collection of relics.  Sympathetic development needs to be encouraged.

Tonight we had our first meeting with our board members elected at our recent AGM.  We allocated roles and responsibilities for our organisation and mapped out some goals for the coming year.  As well as chairperson, secretary and treasurer, we now have formal roles/subcommittees for:

  • Property management
  • Historical research
  • Membership
  • Heritage advisor
  • History lecture organisation
  • Website management
  • Public relations
  • Special projects

We have an active and enthusiastic committee.  It’s going to be a good year!

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