Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1983

The Role of the Department of Lands & Survey in Preserving Historic Sites

page 36

The Role of the Department of Lands & Survey in Preserving Historic Sites

The Department of Lands and Survey is responsible to the Minister of Lands for the administration of the Reserves Act 1977. The provisions of the Act have effect for the purpose of preserving and managing, for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, areas of New Zealand that possess natural, scenic, historic, cultural, archaeological, geological, scientific, educational, or other special features or value, or indigenous flora and fauna, or wildlife, or that have recreational use or potential.

Not all sites of national historic interest are included in historic reserves; they are also found in other types of reserves and in lands owned by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The trust is charged under the Historic Places Act 1954 with the duty to: acquire, preserve, and manage historic places "of national or local interest"; make them accessible to the public and assist local bodies, voluntary societies, and private individuals to do likewise; compile records, erect plaques and notices; and promote archaeological research and ensure the safe custody of Maori artifacts and chattels of historic interest. The Trust also administers a number of historic reserves under the provisions of the Reserves Act.

In terms of the Reserves Act 1977, historic reserves are to have the effect …of protecting and preserving in perpetuity such places, objects and natural features, and such things thereon or therein contained as are of historic, archaeological, cultural, educational, and other special interest…(which) … illustrate with integrity the history of New Zealand. (Section 18[1], [2] [a].)

Historic reserves are thus seen as a cultural rather that a natural resource. Places of natural events in recorded history (e.g. the Tarawera eruption) or geological time (e.g. evidence of past shorelines) are more suited to classification such as scenic, recreational, or scientific, although they may have some historic interest.

Historic reserves lend themselves to varying degrees of interpretation. The appropriate technique will depend on a variety of factors, for example: How important was the person, event, or place? What is their physical condition? Are the earthworks sufficiently stabilised to withstand the passage of large numbers of visitors? Does the site lend itself to interpretation? Are original artifacts available to furnish or illustrate it? How accessible is it? Is enough known about the site to interpret it satisfactorily?

The function of interpretation is to create understanding by explaining a site to a visitor. Whether a visual or oral technique of interpretation is used, its purpose is to make the visitor's experience more meaningful and rewarding. The objective in these techniques should be to reduce the spoken or written word to the minimum so that visible features can speak for themselves.

There are many historic sites in the Nelson Land District, a number of which are marked with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust markers. Much of our history is linked with the discovery of gold in the province. The Aorere goldfield was the first commercial field in the South Island. Gold was discovered there in 1856. While little evidence remains of the town sites on these goldfields there is much to see in the way of water races, tunnels, piles of boulders and dams in the area. A large quartz crushing battery was page 37abandoned in Wakefield Gully. One wonders how this unwieldy 20 head battery and its associated steam boiler were ever transported to this inaccessible site.

The Department has re-opened some of the old tracks on this goldfield and published a self guided walk pamphlet which guides the walker through some of the more interesting sites.

Lyell is another interesting goldmining area. Gold was discovered here in 1863 and the largest nugget found in New Zealand was picked up in the Lyell Creek. This weighed 108 ounces. The Town of Lyell was established following the influx of eager gold seekers. In the 1890s when the town was in its heyday it had a population of over 2,000 and had as many as 5 hotels, 2 banks, 2 churches and a post office. It also had its own newspaper, a police station, courthouse, brewery and a school which had a roll of 86 pupils.

Today it is hard to imagine that this remote site in the Upper Buller Gorge was a bustling town larger than Murchison at that time. The town site is now a Historic Reserve and the Department has erected some interpretative panels depicting the early history together with old photographs and plans.

A walkway has been established up to the old town cemetery and on to one of the goldmines, "The Croesus", which is located about 20 minutes walk up the Lyall Creek. It also has its quartz crushing battery still standing at the entrance to the mine.

Town of Lyell, 1890's. — Tyree Photo.

Town of Lyell, 1890's. — Tyree Photo.

page 38

The town site situated as it is, adjacent to State Highway 6, has proved to be a popular stopping place and is used for overnight camping during the summer. A water supply has been laid on using the water from the town's spring and toilets provided.

Another Historic Reserve connected with the gold era is sited at Blacks Point near Reefton where an enthusiastic group of people have set up a museum and working exhibits of gold mining equipment, notably a quartz crushing battery powered with water drawn from the original dam on Murray Creek. Other equipment powered from the pelton wheel includes a dynamo which generates the electricity for the lighting. Reefton was the first town in New Zealand to generate electricity using hydro electric generation.

A retort house has also been established utilising equipment from the local bank.

The Department is establishing an Historic Reserve covering the old coal mining town of Denniston and the historic incline. Here again, interpretation of the history of the area is to be the main feature on the site. With the establishment of "Coaltown" in Wesport visitors having had their curiosity whetted have wanted to visit the site of this early coal mining town and view the remains of the incline which was the largest engineering project undertaken at that time in New Zealand.

Charleston, which was one of the largest gold towns in New Zealand with a population of over 12,00 is at present being researched and it is planned to establish a Recreation Reserve over the Constant Bay foreshore area and the area immediate to the south. The reserve is being developed and tracks formed. An interpretative display is also planned featuring the history of Charleston and a pamphlet is to be printed.

The protection, development and interpretation of these historic sites are an important part of the work of the Department of Lands & Survey. In co-operation with the Historic Places Trust the Department is continuing to identify land which may possess historic culture or archaeological features to reserve for the protection of our cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations.