The following Commentary by James Blackburne the HPA President appeared in the HPA Oculus September 2019.
While the announcement by the Prime Minister that NZ history will be a compulsory subject in our schools has been long overdue, it is equally pleasing to see the lobbying by many sectors of the community over a large number of years finally bearing fruit.
At last our children will be taught the amazing history of New Zealand. For many our history is seen as being very young, but it dates back almost 1000 years and has links through Polynesian voyaging back over 5000 years, which pre dates the pyramids of Egypt.
New Zealand’s history is full of amazing stories which link our social history to place and this is important as these links are what creates the reason to protect and preserve our heritage places. Education will in time create a community that has a deeper understanding and appreciation of what makes us and the places around us special.
Equally pleasing was the recent first reading of a bill that will see Rua Kenana pardoned. As one member of parliament stated this was an historic occasion. The pleasing aspect of whilst listening to the parties on both sides of the house debate the Bill, no one voted against the bill. In fact, all members of the house pleaded their support of the bill passing its first reading. Over the years I have had a bit on involvement with the descendants of Rua Kenana and have travelled to Maungapohatu.
It would have to be one of the most spiritual places I have ever been to. In 2002, I was privileged to have been one of the first people to have been allowed to go into Rua’s house after the tapu had been lifted. No one had been allowed in it since he left it in the 1920’s. Certainly, one of the best site visits I have ever had, but the story of Rua’s arrest was certainly a sad day in New Zealand’s history.
The more we can honestly and faithfully tell the stories of our past, the good, the bad and the ugly, the better we will be served as a country. It has the promise of bringing us together with a deeper sense of shared history and understanding and I look forward to hearing my children and my grandchildren being able to tell me things about the places where I live that I did not know.
The following report (and image) of James Blackburne's Whanganui Heritage Trust AGM Presentation appears in the HNZPT "Heritage This Month" e-newsletter.
Key messages given to Whanganui Heritage Trust AGM
Fifty members of the Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust were urged to get out and tell the stories of our heritage places by James Blackburne (pictured), President of Historic Places Aotearoa, at the trust’s recent annual general meeting in Whanganui.
James, an architectural partner based in Gisborne, has been working hard since the formation of Historic Places Aotearoa in 2010 at building a network of likeminded, independent regional heritage organisations in New Zealand.
2017 is shaping up to be a very busy year. The primary focus for many will be the national election which is scheduled to be held on the 23rd September. This provides an opportunity for those that value heritage to influence our politicians in a meaningful way. First, by challenging them with respect to what their party policies are towards the protection and funding for heritage and secondly by voting.
Historic Places Aotearoa will be working with several other like minded NGO’s over the coming months to prepare a document aimed at providing some guidance for the various political parties as to how we believe heritage should be managed. This is expected to look at 4 areas:-
1. Ideas around the formulation of a National Heritage Policy Statement. This is something that has been talked about for years but no government has been willing to progress this notion of what heritage really means to New Zealanders.
2. How government will manage its own built heritage resources. The destruction of the Category I listed Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre in 2016 shows that the current management of the Crown owned heritage buildings is woeful and needs to be overhauled. The Crown needs to lead by example when it comes to the care and management of our nations heritage.
3. Legislative Protection. What changes to the law are required to ensure that our most valuable heritage fabric is protected for future generations.
4. Funding and Initiatives. What funding and initiatives are required to ensure that the New Zealand public understand the importance of maintaining our heritage. It is unique and it is one of the things that defines us as New Zealanders, along with our forests and birds, our sporting, scientific and cultural achievements and our climate. Each one of these elements are important, but our built environment is not well looked after and built heritage is not well understood.
If you are reading this you are likely to be someone who believes that our built heritage is important and I encourage you to question your local politician about their views on our heritage before the election. The more people that do this the more likely it is the heritage will be have a voice within the walls of government.