The Heritage New Zealand Bill, at present in the process of being adopted, replaces the present Historic Places Act 1993. The Bill changes the name of the Historic Places Trust to Heritage New Zealand and reinforces the status of Heritage New Zealand as a Crown Entity. The composition of the Board is altered to reflect this status, with no members to be elected by the membership, and changes are made to some of the present powers of the Trust.
Importantly for local heritage, the Trust’s branch committees have been disestablished, although the Trust intends to retain its paying membership. The announcement on radio of the dis-establishment of branch committees was greeted with conster-nation by branch committees as they had had no warning of it. Following a national meeting of branch chairs in Wellington in mid 2010 there was a proposal giving local branch commit-tees the opportunity to reform as autonomous local societies which could affiliate to a new national umbrella organisation, Historic Places Aotearoa. Under this arrangement the Trust agreed to release locally generated funds back to the new soci-eties and the Minister promised a government re-establishment grant to each society once the legislation was passed. The pas-sage of the Bill has been very slow, but the Select Committee has now considered the submissions and has reported back to Parliament, and so the bill will now be read a second and third time before being enacted.
A number of branch committees, including Hawke’s Bay, have gone with the Historic Places Aotearoa proposal; others have amalgamated with other local historic or similar societies, some have set up as independent local societies or trusts and a num-ber are maintaining the status quo pending the passage of the legislation and continuing to receive NZHPT funding.
NZHPT is unusual for a Government organisation in continuing to have a public membership. In return for their subscription members receive a quarterly magazine as well as a number of concessions when visiting historic places overseas, particularly in the UK. Historic Places Aotearoa is working to identify bene-fits which we can offer members, but in the meantime the new local committees face the challenge of establishing a new membership without being able to offer a magazine of similar quality and the overseas concessions. In addition, the branch committees used to receive a reasonably generous annual ad-ministration grant from the Trust plus some additional contesta-ble funding to cover specific projects such as publications or the production and erection of interpretive sign boards at histor-ic places. These operating grants will not continue.
Our local heritage society, Historic Places Hawke’s Bay, was launched in November last year having operated since its for-mation in 1957 as the Hawke's Bay Branch of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT). NZHPT was originally formed in 1955, initially as a very small organisation relying heavily on local branch committees of volunteers to do the local spade work in researching buildings for registration (ie protection), local heritage advocacy and other local activities. Under this model there was a very close working relationship between the Trust and its local branches. As the legislation governing the Trust has changed over the years, the relationship between the Trust and the local branches has also changed, with the branch committees unable to speak publicly about heritage issues and often unaware of NZHPT activities in the area.
Having established Historic Places Hawke's Bay, the local com-mittee is in the process of formalising its aims and objectives, facing the challenge of building membership, identifying what it can offer in return, and re-establishing its identity and credibility under a new name. (Members of the NZ Historic Places Trust / Heritage New Zealand will not become members of Historic Places Hawke’s Bay unless they join the new organisation.)
We not only need members, but we would also welcome addi-tions to the committee. If you are interested in joining Historic
Places Hawke’s Bay or being involved with the development of what we hope will be Hawke’s Bay’s regional heritage umbrella organisation covering the area from Wairoa to Central Hawke’s Bay, please visit the Historic Places Aotearoa web site or con-tact the Secretary, Philip Irwin, on 870 0513.