Whanganui is being used as an example for the rest of the country showing how to go about protecting and restoring heritage buildings.
A new resource developed by Heritage New Zealand called "Saving the Town" is presented as a toolkit to provide councils, stakeholders and heritage building owners with strategies and information encouraging the retention, preservation and reuse of heritage buildings.
The resource was developed by Dr Glen Hazelton, the Director of Organisational Development at Heritage New Zealand. Dr Hazelton says the resource draws significantly on the success of heritage restoration seen in Whanganui that has seen many local heritage buildings brought back to life.
"Whanganui is home to one of the largest collections of heritage buildings in New Zealand, and in particular its Edwardian town centre," Dr Hazelton said.
"The Whanganui District Council has a strategy to regenerate the town centre, and its Heritage Grant Fund has been an important proactive step in encouraging owners of historic downtown properties to rehabilitate or enhance their buildings' visual appeal."
The resource encourages the development of heritage funds such as that found in Whanganui, which plans to provide loan funding to the Whanganui Heritage Restoration Trust which was established to purchase, earthquake strengthen and renovate commercial heritage buildings within the CBD.
"In some cases entire frontages were concealed behind concrete tiles and other contemporary add-ons, and original features such as pediments were removed," Dr Hazelton said.
"The incentives have helped fund repainting, replacement of windows to match originals and the reinstatement of external heritage features. A further bonus has been that additional buildings, not included in the council's heritage inventory, have also come to light, enabling owners to apply for conservation funding they would otherwise not have been entitled to."
The resource aims to reinforce that positive outcomes are possible with heritage buildings, especially when clusters of buildings in heritage areas are preserved and celebrated, as they have been in Whanganui.
"When retained and reused they provide communities with a point of difference, and can result in substantial benefits for many of these places. These buildings can become drivers of broader positive change including economic growth."