The Whanganui region's history deserves to be preserved and celebrated and that's the big job being tackled by the Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust and other more tightly focused groups.

Historical events have created their share of headlines lately. The inaugural Whanganui Heritage Month in 2019 was a great success.

This will be an annual event each August and a terrific way to showcase our history, heritage and architecture as well as focusing on important milestones.


In January we learned the fire watchtower in Cooks Gardens is to be listed as a Category 1 historic site.

The same month we became the first New Zealand town to join the League of Historical Cities.

The league recognises the value of historical urban areas to local and international communities.

Earlier this month it was revealed that a new group set up to buy and restore heritage buildings in the CBD has purchased the old Native Land Court building in Rutland St.

The Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust's brief is wide and it has to prioritise, but despite its efforts it is sad to see some of our historical features fading away.

For example, at the bottom of Georgetti Rd in Kowhai Park stands a post on which a plaque was once fixed, but is now missing, indicating the site of Hatrick's foundry workshops.

The remains of the foundry wharf nearby are slowly deteriorating. Further downstream the skeletons of other once-busy wharves are succumbing to the years and with no signage detailing their rich history.

During World War II many gun emplacements, better know as pillboxes, were built at Castlecliff and near the airport.

Pillboxes get more attention from graffiti artists than historians.
Pillboxes get more attention from graffiti artists than historians.

Sea, sand and weeds have swallowed some up but others are still visible.

Couldn't one be tidied up and marked as an example of our coastal defences? This has been done at Plimmerton, where a World War II gun emplacement is now a heritage site.

The location of the Rutland Stockade in Pukenamu Queen's Park is begging for better recognition than a small plaque on a rock.

There's clearly a need for single-focus groups to form, and take on such projects.

With much to do, appreciation of our history and heritage is growing.

A good example of people working to bring history alive is the Bulls Museum.


With a large pool of volunteers, the museum is open daily and it was great to feel the buzz and hear of their plans to further showcase the district's history.

Another example of grassroots enthusiasm is the Patea Historical Society, which has for the last four years hosted a historic tour in South Taranaki as part of the Whanganui Summer Programme.

The Friends of the Whanganui River group is also doing a great job and through its annual publication is building a terrific archive of river history.

In Canada last year a friend told me of a project to place on a website the location plus a photo and text detailing every historical plaque in his community — a big job but a notable contribution that offers a glimpse into the narrative of his town. Something we could think about.

Apart from Heritage Month, we also look forward this year to the development of a Whanganui Heritage Strategy. Hopefully the public will contribute to this blueprint for the ongoing enhancement of our history and heritage.

As the trust says, it's all about conserving yesterday for tomorrow.


To keep up with the trust's activities, go to its website

• Dave Scoullar is a history-loving tramper, conservationist and member of the Te Araroa Whanganui Trust.