Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern has generously released the notes of the speech, given on her behalf, by Hon Iain Lees-Galloway to the Historic Places Aotearoa AGM 2018.
It’s a pleasure to be here today on behalf of the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, among so many passionate advocates for the heritage sector.
And what better location for discussing historic places than here at Caccia Birch House – a wonderful example of New Zealand’s regional heritage and a building that is steeped in the history of Palmerston North.
Winston Churchill once said “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”.
I think this perfectly sums up our relationship to our built heritage in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Every historic site tells a story, and when seen together these stories form part of our collective idea about who we are as a nation.
I want to assure you today that this Government is taking heritage seriously.
Just last month, the Prime Minister launched ‘Our Plan’, which sets out the Coalition Government’s long-term priorities and the steps we are taking to build a modern and fairer New Zealand.
One of the three pillars of ‘Our Plan’ is ‘Making New Zealand proud’. A proud New Zealand is one that recognises and celebrates the value and uniqueness of its culture, its languages, its history, and of course, its historic buildings and places.
This idea of making New Zealand proud applies across the cultural and heritage sectors. From quality local broadcast content to historic buildings and sites, these are the things that reflect who we are and tell our stories.
This Government is committed to promoting and protecting our culture in all its forms, and moving forward this will be part of our blueprint for leadership and decision making.
But there are also other ways that we are factoring culture and heritage into our long-term vision for New Zealand.
The Living Standards Framework
The Government is also using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to measure our success differently.
When we talk about success we’re taking a broader view than simply looking at people’s incomes or Gross Domestic Product.
The Living Standards Framework incorporates other dimensions of living, focusing on the health of our people, families, communities, and environment.
The Living Standards Framework breaks wellbeing down into four broad areas – social capital, human capital, natural capital and financial capital. Heritage places contribute to all of these areas.
In terms of financial capital, many heritage places in New Zealand contribute significantly to the tourism economy, as well as the reputation and attractiveness of urban areas.
They are also often functional, and many historic buildings have been adapted to meet modern needs for use as residences, offices, and community facilities.
Perhaps less obvious, but just as important, are the ways that heritage places contribute to social capital.
For instance, how they can help foster a sense of cultural identity and belonging, and build connections between people and communities.
A fantastic recent example of this is an exhibition called The Rooms, which is currently showing at The Elms in Tauranga, where artists have created works in response to different rooms of the historic homestead.
The exhibition, which was supported by Creative New Zealand, has had a very positive response from the local community.
This provides communities with an opportunity to reflect on, and connect with, the history of their places and people.
In this sense, heritage buildings can act as vehicles for bringing diverse communities together, and promoting social inclusion, cohesion and empathy.
And of course, heritage places also contribute to human capital as hubs of knowledge, learning, history and scholarship, and by offering employment opportunities in the heritage and conservation sectors.
When viewed from this holistic perspective, it becomes clear that heritage places are an important part of our wellbeing.
The Government acknowledges this as we strive to improve the lives of New Zealanders through the Living Standards Framework.
Supporting New Zealand’s regions
Heritage places are also a large part of what defines and gives character to our regions, and it’s important to invest in regional heritage in order to preserve the distinctive character of regional towns.
The Government is committed to supporting New Zealand’s regions, particularly through the Provincial Growth Fund, which aims to boost regional development projects and enhance economic growth in regional New Zealand through an allocation of three billion dollars over three years.
One example of the Provincial Growth Fund in action is the case of Taranaki Cathedral.
In April, the Government announced it will invest five million dollars in this Category One heritage building through the Provincial Growth Fund, in order to transform it into a nationally significant tourist drawcard.
As well as restoring the building, the development will incorporate professionally designed displays, audio visual guides and immersive multimedia resources to help tell the story of New Zealand’s oldest stone church.
This development will ensure that the Cathedral and its site are preserved for future generations, and it will also bolster Taranaki’s tourism sector, offering locals and visitors a more comprehensive understanding of the site’s history and its role in the evolution of our bi-cultural nation.
Challenges to the sector
Of course, this sector is not without its challenges, and the Government recognises the issues facing some of our smaller towns and cities in protecting their built heritage.
Heritage restoration is a difficult and expensive undertaking, and requires open dialogue between Councils, property owners and Government.
We appreciate the efforts of councils and other groups to engage with the Government and identify potential solutions at a local level, particularly here in the Manawatū-Whanganui district.
It’s also important to make sure heritage rules work for private owners, especially as more than two thirds of our listed heritage places are in private ownership.
It’s good to see that councils are working collaboratively across New Zealand to look at these policies, as they have a huge impact on heritage buildings nationwide.
I’m also pleased to see that a growing number of local councils, including Horowhenua and Whanganui, are establishing funds for conserving or restoring the heritage value of local properties.
I hope that these programmes, and the Government’s Heritage EQUIP fund for earthquake strengthening costs can have a positive impact on preserving our heritage buildings.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the important role played by advocacy groups such as Historic Places Aotearoa in protecting New Zealand’s heritage at both a local and national level.
Advocacy is an essential part of our heritage system, and the Government is extremely grateful to the individuals and groups, like Historic Places Aotearoa, who volunteer their time to campaign for the protection of New Zealand’s heritage.
I think we can all agree that no one wants to live in a place without history, stories, or local colour.
These are the things that make our towns and cities distinctive and attractive places to visit, live and work in, and these qualities are often embodied in our historic places and buildings.
Our heritage also contributes to individual and societal wellbeing in numerous ways, and as I’ve mentioned, the Government is factoring this into how we measure and improve quality of life for New Zealanders.
I commend the work that you all do as strong and vocal advocates for the heritage sector.
I look forward to seeing ways that the Government can continue to work with this sector to ensure our historic places are protected for current and future generations to enjoy and connect with. Thank you.